LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Schools can reopen even though teachers have not yet been vaccinated, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Wolensky said during Wednesday's White House briefing on the COVID-19 response.
In response to a question about school vaccination prioritization, Wolensky said that vaccination of teachers should not be a prerequisite for the safe reopening of schools. In California's vaccination schedule, teachers are in Phase 1B, along with seniors and those working in emergency services, and food and agriculture.
"…I also want to be clear that there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen, and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely," Wolensky said.
Vaccination of teachers has already begun in some areas, like Long Beach. Though Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second largest public school district in the nation, remains closed and Superintendent Austin Beutner and the district's teachers' unions say campuses should not reopen until teachers are vaccinated.
Other school districts surrounding LAUSD have been able to reopen safely without vaccinating teachers first, and haven't seen the feared outbreaks of COVID-19. To pediatrician Dr. Alice Kuo, it's evidence schools should reopen and students should return to in-person learning.
"Schools are not super-spreader places, in other words," Kuo said. "We know how to keep everyone safe on a school campus. It's masking, it's social distancing, it's hand hygiene, it's symptom checking. Those have been put in place and kept students safe on campuses across the world for months now."
The American Academy of Pediatrics has been calling for children to return to school campuses since June. Experts have said the risks of remaining isolated at home outweigh the risks posed by the virus to young children, who don't seem to become as sick as adults when infected with COVID-19.
"We're seeing weight gain from kids not being able to be physically active, we are seeing kids with mental health issues, kids who are feeling isolated," Kuo said. "We are seeing higher rates of child abuse because teachers are the largest group of reporters of child abuse and neglect."
As for parents, many of them want to be able to send their children back to campus, but only if it's done in a way that can ensure the safety of teachers, staff and the community at large.
"I know that they miss it and they really want to go back, but only if everyone is prepared and everyone does the right thing and that the numbers are where they are supposed to be," Kori, an LAUSD parent, said.
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