CDC to Roll Out Schools Plan Friday, Biden Pandemic Aide Says

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will release its detailed guidance Friday on how to safely reopen more schools, a White House adviser said.

The long-awaited guidance will be the most detailed federal road map yet, and officials have telegraphed that it will recommend a mix of measures -- masks, social distancing, better ventilation and possibly vaccine priority for educators, but not a requirement.

Andy Slavitt, a Covid adviser to President Joe Biden, told MSNBC on Thursday morning that the CDC guidance will be rolled out Friday.

“There’s no debate over whether to open schools here, there’s a debate over how, and if it were as simple as ‘open all the schools,’ they’d all be open now,” Slavitt said. “There are schools that have done it safely and there are schools that have done it not as safely.”

The issue has threatened to pin Biden between core policy goals -- his pledge to follow science, his push to reopen schools and his pledged loyalty to teachers.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky caused a stir when she said vaccines are not a prerequisite to reopening. Widespread vaccine shortages mean that vaccinating all teachers won’t be possible in the near term. Slavitt suggested that schools should open as much as possible if children are masked, capacity is capped and other conditions are met.

“What the CDC director believes is that every additional protective measure you take helps -- so, vaccinations help, masks help, good ventilation helps. If we had an abundance of those tools, we’d say everybody should do everything right now and then everyone would be as safe as possible. I think what she’s saying is while we have a shortage, there are other ways to get there and to do it safely,” Slavitt told MSNBC. “I think she’s trying to figure out how to get schools to yes under limited resources.”

Biden’s goal is that more than half of U.S. schools reopen at least one day a week for in-person learning by the end of April. There’s no clear federal government data on what the current situation is, though many communities across the U.S. have already opened schools. Data aggregated by Burbio, a website that tracks school reopening, shows that 65% of students in Kindergarten through Grade 12 are already back in school facilities at least part time.

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