Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a former member of President Biden’s COVID-19 task force, said Sunday that remote schooling for U.S. children has been “a failure across the country.”
CNN’s Jim Acosta asked Emanuel during an appearance on the network what his advice to the Biden administration would be on whether schools should remain open or shut again due to the pandemic.
“I agree with Mayor Lightfoot that kids have to be in school, and we know that virtual learning did not work. It was a failure across the country and we kept kids out way too long,” Emanuel told Acosta on CNN.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s recently remarked that, “Our kids need to be back in school. Schools are safe.” The Chicago Teachers Union voted to return to remote learning, but the Chicago Public Schools system canceled classes, saying the district wants to continue in-person learning.
“What do we have to do? Teachers have to be fully vaccinated and get boosted. Children who can be vaccinated have to be vaccinated,” said Emanuel, who is the Vice Provost of Global Health Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania.
Emanuel suggested that schools can adopt safety measures like air purifiers in classrooms and using high-quality masks to mitigate the spread and stay open.
“There are billions of dollars available for the federal government to improve and upgrade schools,” he said.
“We know virtual learning for kids in first grade and above is not very effective for them, and we lose many kids,” Emanuel emphasized. “So I think we have to prioritize in-person learning and put the safety measures we know work to reduce transmission to work there.”
The former Biden advisor added that prioritizing football games over keeping schools open seems “upside-down” to him.
“I do think that we have our priorities upside-down when we think dining in restaurants, going to football games, going to basketball games are more important than having schools open. That just seems upside-down in this country,” he said.
“Alright, hopefully we’ll get right-side up at some point,” Acosta responded.
Teachers unions and union members in several cities including Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco are pressuring their school districts to return to remote learning.
Meanwhile, some schools across the country either delayed returning to in-person classes after winter break or returned to remote learning for now due to COVID-19 concerns, including Washington DC, Seattle, and Milwaukee.
Chicago Teachers Union CTU President Jesse Sharkey called Lightfoot “relentlessly stupid” for trying to force teachers to continue teaching in person.
“We are asking for some basic common sense safety measures. We want a metric when the majority of the classes are on quarantine. We don’t have the reassurance we need to restart school,” Sharkey said.
In San Francisco, the teacher’s union is demanding 10 paid sick days for all COVID-19 related reasons and that the school district provide two N95 or KN95 masks for every student and employee every day.