'I worry about government overreach, sending down edicts that will lead to school closures.'
A recent increase in COVID-19 hospital admissions should not force schools to shut down, the Biden administration's secretary of education said in a recent interview.
“I worry about government overreach, sending down edicts that will lead to school closures because either folks are afraid to go in or are infected and can’t go,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona told
The Associated Press earlier this week.
According to data
published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for the week ending Sept. 9, hospitalizations for COVID-19 are up 7.7 percent over the previous week. However, historic trends reveal
that the current increase in hospitalizations is still a far cry from previous increases in 2020, 2021, and 2022.
“Schools should be open, period,” Mr. Cardona said Friday, according to the AP. Going a step further, he said that in-person schooling "should not be sacrificed for ideology," suggesting that closures harmed communities.
At the start of the 2023–2024 school year, several public schools had to close down due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, leading a number of students to miss class.
Three school districts in Kentucky canceled in-person classes in late August, citing a drop in student and teacher attendance due to COVID-19 and other illnesses. Scott Lockard, public health director for the Kentucky River District Health Department, told
USA Today last month that "there was a lot of illness in the county, and the absentee rate got up to the level where the school system felt it justified closing."
The Runge Independent School District in Texas also announced a closure in late August due to illnesses, ABC News reported
. A handful of staffers tested positive for COVID-19 at the time, the report said.
Earlier this month, several California high schools confirmed they canceled football games due to COVID-19 cases.
Esparto High School near Sacramento confirmed that it canceled a game after it stated that six players tested positive for COVID-19. It also stated that multiple players were also injured and that it didn’t have enough players for a game. “Ensuring the well-being of students is not only a moral obligation but also a legal and ethical responsibility,” district Superintendent Christina Goennier told affiliate station FOX40
Hundreds of miles away, a high school north of Los Angeles also confirmed to local media outlets that it canceled a football game against a rival school after multiple COVID-19 cases were confirmed among its players.
“We have an outbreak,” Santa Paula Assistant Principal Daniel Guzman told
the Ventura County Star. “The number is rising.”
Other than closures, a smaller number of schools have reimplemented mask mandates, notably in Alabama and one kindergarten class in Montgomery County, Maryland, in recent weeks.
Regarding whether schools should reimplement mask mandates, Mr. Cardona said earlier this month in Kansas such decisions about masks should be made "at the local level," reported
local outlet KHQA-TV. At the time, he also stressed to local outlets that schools should not close down due to rises in COVID-19.
Several hospitals have also re-issued masking mandates, including several in upstate New York, Massachusetts, California, and elsewhere.
This week, the Cincinnati Children's Hospital announced
it would require all staff members to wear masks in clinical and public areas due to the increase in respiratory illnesses, including influenza, COVID-19, and RSV. Patients and visitors do not have to wear masks, the hospital said.
Days before that, authorities in several California Bay Area counties issued orders mandating health care workers in patient settings to wear masks. Those measures were announced in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, and Sonoma counties, which will remain in effect starting Nov. 1 until April 30, 2024.
“Each year we see that higher rates of influenza, COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses that can cause severe respiratory infections occur annually between late fall and spring,” Dr. Karen Smith, Sonoma County’s interim health officer, said in a statement
Talk about mask mandates drew condemnation from several top Republican officials in recent days, including several GOP presidential candidates.
In a press conference this month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis insisted that his state won’t reimplement mandates, while former President Donald Trump released a video in August calling on people to resist COVID-19 rules.
“They want to restart the COVID hysteria so they can justify more lockdowns, more censorship, more illegal drop boxes, more mail-in ballots, and trillions of dollars in payoffs to their political allies heading into the 2024 election—does that sound familiar?” the former commander-in-chief said
in the video.
After failing to secure the passage of a bill that would block federal mask mandates, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) said at a news conference on Sept. 20 that he believes there's a means to pass the legislation.
"We're working on a number of different angles to actually try to get it passed, or some version of it passed,” Mr. Vance said
at a press conference. “I was really disappointed that the [unanimous consent] was blocked.”