Laying down a marker: We expect all students to be in school full-time by fall, says CDC chief

AP Photo/LM Otero

Did she run this projection by her boss before making it on camera?

Randi Weingarten, I mean. Not Biden.

The bad news for the White House is that this not-very-bold-yet-bold-by-Democratic-standards target for reopening risks pitting it against the teachers unions. Union leaders — and our new education secretary — have refused to commit to being back in school nationally for the fall semester, insisting that city schools might not be up to snuff on ventilation and safe spacing even though every teacher in America will have access to the vaccine this summer. It was just two days ago, in fact, that the CDC announced that nearly 80 percent of teachers and school staff have already received their first dose. Barring the emergence of some killer variant in the next four months, there’s no reason why teachers shouldn’t be safe in class everywhere this fall. And Walensky, to her credit, doesn’t seem inclined to pretend otherwise even though it would make things easier on her actual boss to do so.


The good news for the administration, though, is that if we get to September and schools still aren’t open everywhere, they can always claim that Walensky was “speaking in her personal capacity” here or that she simply misstated important facts. They’ve done it before, after all.

Anyway, bookmark this post. We’ll revisit it in September.

The most important thing she said in this interview was that Pfizer’s vaccine for kids aged 12-15 should be available by mid-May. Not only will every teacher have an opportunity to be vaccinated before fall, in other words, every middle-school student and older who wants it will be able to get it. (And might be forced to do so by their school district as a condition of enrollment.) That being so, there’s no excuse for any school anywhere to be doing hybrid learning this fall.

Unless parents demand it, I mean.

As for how schools are doing right now, economist Emily Oster of Brown University has new data today about infection rates among students and staff during the second half of March. For the third two-week period in a row, both groups saw fewer cases per capita than the average wider community did. The community rate was 23 COVID cases per 100,000 people. For students it was 15 cases per 100,000 and for school staff 17 cases per 100,000. It’s been true since mid-February, in other words, that teachers and staff are at lower risk of infection in school than out of it. And considering how many of them have been vaccinated already, that might remain true for the rest of the pandemic. Between mandatory vaccinations for kids and priority vaccinations for teachers, in-school infection rates may be lower as a rule than community rates going forward.


For your exit question I’ll leave you with this, from a group in Fairfax County, Virginia, lobbying to get schools fully reopened:

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David Strom 5:00 PM | May 23, 2024