Pelosi says teacher COVID-19 vaccines may not be necessary for school reopenings

on Feb18
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday teachers may not have to be vaccinated to return to school depending on the coronavirus caseload in the community.

Pelosi, D-Calif., said what school districts really need is more money to make safety improvements for reopening and that’s what the House intends to deliver next week when Democrats seek to pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation. 

“I think teachers should be vaccinated. I don’t know that they must be vaccinated before going in,” Pelosi said Thursday at a news conference at the Capitol.

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Pelosi continued: “I want everybody to be vaccinated and I certainly want our teachers to be. But, depending on what the situation is in their area, it may or may not be necessary.”

Pelosi said she has a granddaughter home from school in San Francisco and understands the need for children to be back in the classroom, especially children who may not have access to the technology and resources for remote learning. 

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 18: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks at a weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol on February 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. Speaker took questions on the creation of a commission to investigate the January 6 attack, vaccination of teachers, immigration legislation. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 18: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks at a weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol on February 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. Speaker took questions on the creation of a commission to investigate the January 6 attack, vaccination of teachers, immigration legislation. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
(Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

“We want as many kids to be back in school as possible. For that to happen, it takes some money,” Pelosi said, citing the need for better ventilation systems, more teachers and more buses to accommodate social distancing standards.

School reopening has been a top priority for the new Biden adminstatration though the White House has been squishy with its goals.

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Biden on Tuesday night distanced himself from previous comments by White House press secretary Jen Psaki that the administration’s goal for its first 100 days was to have more than 50% of schools open at least one day per week.

Biden called Psaki’s explanation a communication “mistake” and told a CNN town hall Tuesday the actual goal is opening the majority of K-8 schools at the end of his first 100 days. 

A challenge to school reopenings has been teachers’ unions that want assurances they can return to work safely, with the California Teachers Association in January asking for vaccines before heading back to school.

But CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said her agency’s newly released guidance states that it is possible for schools “even in areas of the highest community spread” to reopen safely — at least in a hybrid fashion — without teachers getting vaccinated first.

“We are advocating with the strict mitigation measures … including universal and mandatory masking as well as six-foot of distancing, that at least our K-5 children should be able to get back to school at least in a hybrid mode,” Walensky told “Fox News Sunday,” referring to a model that would combine in-person and remote learning.

CDC DIRECTOR: SCHOOLS CAN OPEN WITHOUT TEACHER VACCINES ‘EVEN IN AREAS OF THE HIGHEST COMMUNITY SPREAD’

And even Anthony Fauci told “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday that vaccinating all teachers before schools reopen is a “non-workable situation.”

Biden, who has been a strong ally to the unions, said he wants teachers to be prioritized in getting a vaccination. States make such determinations and not all have allowed teachers to be moved up in the line for eligibility. 

“I think that we should be vaccinating teachers. We should move them up in the hierarchy,” Biden said at the CNN town hall Tuesday.

As of Saturday, the Burbio.com school reopening tracker found that 40.8% of K-12 public school students in the U.S. were attending in-person school every day. About a third of U.S. students were in virtual-only schools, while the remainder were in a hybrid program of both virtual and in-person. 

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Biden and Pelosi have both said the $1.9 trillion coronavirus package is needed to help more schools reopens. 

But Republicans have criticized the proposal as not incentivizing schools to reopen now. They point to a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that estimated just $6 billion of the $128 billion in the package would flow to schools in 2021.

Pressed about the CBO report and GOP criticism Thursday at the news conference, Pelosi brushed off the reporter’s question.

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“I don’t place too much weight on what the Republicans say … but the fact is is that this is the money that is needed,” Pelosi said.

“… The $130 billion in K-12 will help provide immediate relief to schools so they can safely reopen for in-person instruction and address the difficult multi-year challenge of making up lost time in the classroom. This learning loss is heartbreaking for children.”

Fox News’ Tyler Olson, Peter Aitken and Audrey Conklin contributed to this report. 



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