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CDC: Schools can reopen without teachers getting COVID-19 vaccine

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WASHINGTON (AP/KRON) — The Director of the CDC says schools can safely reopen even if teachers are not vaccinated for the coronavirus.

As some teachers’ unions balk at resuming in-person instruction before teachers are inoculated, Dr. Rochelle Walensky says, “Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools.” Walensky cited CDC data showing that social distancing and wearing a mask significantly reduce the spread of the virus in school settings.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients called on Congress to pass additional funding to ensure schools have the resources necessary to support reopening.

President Joe Biden has pledged to ensure nearly all K-8 schools will reopen for in-person instruction in the first 100 days of his administration.

Teachers are prioritized as “essential workers” under the CDC’s vaccination plans, though many have yet to receive doses as the nation continues to face a supply shortage of the vaccine.

“Teachers do need to be vaccinated,” OUSD special education teacher Mark Airgood said. “There’s not even enough vaccines, enough to do all the elderly people or healthcare workers so, you know, you add more people but you have no vaccines.”

Mark Airgood is a special education teacher in Oakland and a site representative for the Oakland Education Association, the teachers’ union.

His reaction to the director of the CDC announcing vaccination of teachers is not required for the safe reopening of schools.

“We’re in the middle of a historic pandemic. I mean millions of people have died. So to me, you could make up for lost learning but once you are dead or killed, kill your grandmother because of COVID – you don’t recover from that,” Airgood said. 

The CDC director citing data showing that social distancing and wearing a mask significantly reduces the spread of covid in school settings.

In a video, the Oakland Unified School District shows changes made to ensure safety in the classroom.

OUSD spokesperson John Sasaki says the district is waiting on more guidance from Alameda County and the state.

“We’re certainly hoping to open sooner rather than later. We’re targeting hopefully sometime this spring assuming that things can continue to improve on the ground, as soon as we can get out of purple tier and we can come to a place where everybody feels comfortable with coming back to school,” Sasaki said. 

UCSF infectious disease specialist Peter Chin-Hong thinks it is safe to reopen schools without vaccinations but it will require proper PPE and on-campus testing for the coronavirus.

“Particularly in young elementary school kids, I think it’s a good idea as long as there are protections in place for the teachers,” Dr. Peter Chin Hong said. “There’s data showing when you wear a mask even with the low chance you are exposed, the disease you do get is much less severe because the load of virus you get is much lower.”

The Alameda County Department of Public Health announced vaccinations for education staff and others in 1B tier will begin next week.

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