Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday morning that vaccinating teachers should be a priority.
What You Need To Know
- Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday morning on NBC's "Today" show that vaccinating teachers should be a priority
- The vice president did not elaborate on how the Biden administration might place a greater emphasis on vaccinating teachers
- Harris sidestepped questions about whether it was a mistake for the CDC to tie its guidelines for reopening schools to COVID-19 case numbers in communities
- She also further clarified President Joe Biden’s goal for reopening schools
Harris made the comment during an interview on NBC’s “Today” show when asked about teachers who are wary about returning to classrooms before they are vaccinated.
“Teachers should be a priority, along with other front-line workers, and we’re going to make them a priority,” Harris said.
The vice president did not elaborate on how the Biden administration might place a greater emphasis on vaccinating teachers, but it echoes President Joe Biden's comments at a CNN town hall Tuesday night.
"I think that we should be vaccinating teachers,” Biden said, responding to a question about his plan for reopening schools. “We should move them up in the hierarchy.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at Wednesday's White House press briefing that ultimately the decisions on whom to prioritize are left up to states.
“We work in close partnership and coordination with states to make recommendations on the prioritization, and they implement," she said. "Of course, the power of the presidency and the power of the vice presidency is certainly conveying what their preference is.”
Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia are currently allowing some or all schools staffs to receive the shots. In cities such as Chicago and Montclair, New Jersey, teachers have refused to return to in-person classes before being vaccinated.
Biden and Harris both believe that vaccinations should not be a prerequisite for teachers returning to classrooms, Psaki said.
Harris added that President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package would help schools be safer by providing improved ventilation systems and physical barriers.
The vice president sidestepped questions Wednesday about whether it was a mistake for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to tie its guidelines for reopening schools to COVID-19 case numbers in communities.
The CDC recommended last week that communities with the highest transmission rates should only reopen on a hybrid basis — some classes in person, some online.
An analysis by Burbio, a website that tracks school data, found that 91% of students live in “red” zones that would not be recommended for full openings, CBS News reported. However, the CDC also has cited data showing that little virus transmission has occurred on school campuses.
Harris did not directly answer questions about whether the CDC’s school guidance is too stringent.
“What the CDC, what they have recommended are exactly that — recommendations, about how to reopen safely if they’ve been closed, how to stay open if they’ve been opened," she said. "And so the recommendations include what, again, needs to happen around social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing. But the point is we all want our kids to get back to school as quickly as possible and as safely as possible.”
Harris added: “The issue here is not just about statistics. It’s about kids. It’s about their parents. It’s about the fact that every day our kids are missing essential critical days in their educational development.”
Harris also further clarified Biden’s goal for reopening schools. Last week, Psaki said Biden wanted to reopen the majority of schools at least one day a week in the first 100 days of his administration, which some critics blasted for not being ambitious enough.
During his CNN town hall in Milwaukee on Tuesday night, Biden said there “was a mistake in the communication” and that his goal is to fully reopen the majority of kindergarten through eighth-grade schools by the end of April.
The vice president echoed that aspiration Wednesday.
“Our goal is as many K-8 schools as possible will reopen within the first hundred days,” she said. “Our goal is that it will be five days a week.”