Former CDC Director Joins Chorus Supporting School Reopenings

February 5, 2021 Updated: February 5, 2021

A former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday said he supports schools reopening if proper measures are put into place, joining a chorus of current and former officials from the public health agency.

“Early on in this pandemic, the move was to get schools closed, and that was based on what we knew about flu, and how readily flu spread through classrooms. What we’re learning, both from studies in the United States and studies from around the globe, is that you can get children back to school safely—safely for the children, safely for the staff, and safely for the teachers, if you’re able to do those things,” Dr. Richard Besser, former acting CDC head, said on Fox News’ “Your World.”

Besser referred to implementing social distancing protocols, keeping classroom size lower than normal, improving ventilation, and screening for COVID-19.

“These things work,” he added, referring to a CDC journal viewpoint article about the effects of school reopening on transmission of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

Citing several studies, CDC officials said “there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.”

Schools in all 50 states have reopened since the nationwide shutdown in spring 2020 but a number remain closed, primarily because of resistance from teachers unions.

school reopening
Children arrive for class on the first day of school reopening, in New York City on Dec. 7, 2020. (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

In one of the most high-profile cases, Chicago union officials continue battling a return to the classroom, accusing city officials of not having proper measures in place to assure the safety of teachers. One of the union’s demands is to have a certain number of teachers vaccinated each week against the CCP virus.

But teachers do not need the vaccine for schools to safely reopen, the CDC’s current head, Rochelle Walensky, recently told reporters.

Besser echoed that in his television appearance, saying: “I think teachers should be in the group of frontline workers who are given vaccines early, but you don’t need to have that to be able to open up schools very safely.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on Thursday that the administration is still waiting on the CDC to issue their final guidance in regards to school reopenings. Biden vowed while campaigning to reopen schools during his first 100 days in office.

“The president, let me be crystal clear, wants schools to open, he wants them to stay open, and he wants to do that safely. And he wants health and medical experts to be the guides for how we should do exactly that,” Psaki said. “So Dr. Walensky spoke to this in her personal capacity. Obviously, she’s the head of the CDC, but we’re going to wait for the final guidance to come out so we can use that as a guide for schools around the country.”

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