CDC, other experts argue schools can safely reopen before teachers are vaccinated

Tony Cabrera Image
Thursday, February 4, 2021
Should schools reopen before teachers are vaccinated?
The new head of the CDC and some medical experts argue schools can reopen safely before teachers are vaccinated - but unions and some districts urge caution.

More experts and officials are arguing that schools can safely reopen before teachers have been vaccinated for COVID-19 - but many unions and districts remain cautious.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is making a strong case for schools reopening across the country.

The CDC's director said on Wednesday that schools can reopen safely without vaccinating teachers.

In addition, the Southern California chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics also believes it is safe for schools to reopen and they should immediately.

"We've been watching and monitoring what's been going on," said Dr. Alice Kuo, with the academy. "And more and more studies have come out and schools are open in other parts of the country and quite frankly around the world and basically the results are very, very positive."

Kuo says schools are not drivers of transmission, as proven at schools across the country and world.

The new director of the CDC is now offering similar thoughts, saying even the vaccine isn't a prerequisite.

"There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely," said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

But some teachers unions are urging caution, saying vaccination is the key to reopening.

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner also recently said vaccinations should come first.

RELATED: LAUSD superintendent says teachers should be vaccinated before schools reopen

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said again that teachers and staff must be vaccinated before schools can reopen - throwing doubt on whether reopening will happen this academic year.

Just last week, the California Teachers Association sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom calling for an aggressive statewide plan that includes vaccinations, saying shortcuts shouldn't be taken.

Earlier this week, United Teachers Los Angeles said they want to resume in person - but when the time is right.

"I want to put Gov. Newsom on the spot and I also want to put our county officials on the spot as well," said Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of UTLA. "Make it safe. Make it safe."

Dr. Kuo says otherwise.

"I talk about the nice-to-haves and the must-haves," Kuo said. "To me, testing and vaccines are nice-to-haves, but you can't open a school safely without the must-haves and the must-haves are infection-control measures that we know work."

In Orange County, many schools have already reopened.

Of the 28 districts, 17 are currently in some type of in-person or hybrid model. Most of the remaining districts have a plan to return this month.

Where COVID-19 is more prevalent, there is more of a delay.

Schools in Anaheim plan to return mid-March, only if the county's color-coded tier status allows.

Santa Ana Unified is one of the only districts that doesn't have a reopening plan in place. We're told they're focusing on the vaccine right now.