The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reiterated on Wednesday that schools can safely reopen even if teachers are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Last week the CDC weighed into the ongoing debate over whether to reopen schools for in-person instruction, noting that schools that are currently welcoming students into classrooms with certain safety precautions in place have had only “scant transmission” of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
“The CDC team reviewed data from studies in the United States and abroad and found the experience in schools different from nursing homes and high-density work sites where rapid spread has occurred,” The Washington Post reported last Tuesday. “The review, which echoes the conclusions of other researchers, comes as many school districts continue to wrestle with whether and how to reopen schools and as President Biden makes a return to in-person learning one of his top pandemic-related priorities.”
“The preponderance of available evidence from the fall school semester has been reassuring,” CDC researchers noted in an article for the Journal of the American Medical Association. “There has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.”
“The conclusion here is with proper prevention efforts…we can keep transmission in schools and educational settings quite low,” the study’s lead author noted in the article. “We didn’t know that at the beginning of the year but the data has really accumulated.”
On Wednesday, the CDC weighed in again, this time suggesting that a common teachers union demand — that all teachers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before being forced to return to classrooms — is not a necessary requirement for in-person learning to be done safely and with minimum risk of coronavirus transmission.
“There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated,” President Joe Biden’s CDC director, Rochelle Walensky, told reporters during a COVID-19 response team press conference Wednesday morning.
“Vaccinations of teachers is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools,” she reiterated.
The CDC remains concerned, largely, about extracurricular activities associated with school, rather than in-person instruction itself. As the agency pointed out in its JAMA article, there are records of significant coronavirus outbreaks associated with school athletics, particularly sporting events that are not typically held outdoors or where social distancing is not possible, like wrestling.
The CDC’s scientific recommendations seem to run contrary to statements made by teachers’ unions. In places like Chicago, the nation’s third-largest school district, the Chicago Teachers Union has repeatedly demanded that all teachers be vaccinated before returning to classrooms and, where that is not possible — and where teachers live with unvaccinated individuals live with individuals vulnerable to the disease — teachers should be allowed to work from home indefinitely.
In Virginia, lawmakers are pushing for staff-wide vaccinations before school resumes, per Fox News.
As The Daily Wire reported last week, the science is now weighing against keeping schools in lockdown. “The CDC’s data [which says that schools may safely reopen with precautionary measures in place] does seem to echo data collected in other areas of the world, where students returned to in-person schooling in the fall, or, in some cases, were never locked out. The study also comes on the heels of a set of British statistics, released on Monday, that suggest teachers are no more likely to get COVID-19 than other essential workers.”