L'amministrazione Biden si confronta con labirinti normativi e messaggi confusi per spingere alla riapertura delle scuole

President Joe Biden’s promise to try to open schools within his first 100 giorni è diventato uno degli enigmi più irritanti che la nuova amministrazione deve affrontare, leading to confusion and anger among parents who still aren’t getting clear answers.

There are few more urgent issues facing the country with the pandemic about to hit the one-year mark. Many kids have been out of in-person school for almost that long. Online school is especially tough for lower income children, particularly for households where parents cannot oversee daily school work because their careers require them to continue working outside the home during the pandemic. Some parents fear that the abrupt transition to online learning during the pandemic could have a lasting impact their kidsmental health and ability to keep up. And re-opening schools is crucial to easing childcare issues that threaten to slow the return of workers needed to reboot the economy.
A month into the new administration, the White House still cannot provide the clarity much of America needs about when children can return to school, which kids can go back and when their teachers will be vaccinated. Biden declared Tuesday night at a CNN town hall that teachers should be prioritized for vaccinations. But decisions about teacher vaccinations and schools reopening are made at the local levelwith school districts often having to abide by state guidelines that determine based on the level of transmission in a community.
This is a reflection of the enormous scientific, educational and political lift it will require to get millions of young Americans back into in-person learning. Given these complications, it’s perhaps not surprising White House officials have hedged on key details. But at times, their unspecific language and repetition of talking points apparently designed to navigate a tricky political position with few easy answers, has only added more opacity.
    Martedì sera, Biden also expressed hopes that children from kindergarten to eighth grade could be back in class relatively soon but was unable to offer much certainty for older children who are more susceptible to spreading the virus and getting sick. He also said teachers should get priority for vaccinations. Vice President Kamala Harris echoed that position on NBC’s “Oggi” show on Wednesday but pointed out that governors decide who gets inoculated first, again casting doubt about when the situation will change.
    The administration’s position that teachers should be prioritized for vaccines but that vaccination should not be a prerequisite for schools to reopen might make sense from an administrative and scientific standpoint. But it may not be a sustainable political stance for much longer since it is confusing for the public and doesn’t get parents any closer to understanding when their schools might open. By saying that teachers are frontline workers and should get priority access to limited doses, the administration is also implying they are at significant risk. But it then appears to downplay the risk by saying it shouldn’t stop schools getting back to business in a manner that is likely to worry teachers.
    This problem is just one aspect of the Covid-19 crisisbut it shows the massive complexity of the task of getting the country back open in the coming year and the lack of a playbook for what is a once in 100-year public health crisis.

    The threat from variants

    The uncertainty is being exacerbated by the emergence of dangerous new variants that could make the virus much more contagious in March and April; multi-layered levels of government authority; the shifting timeline on the availability of vaccine doses; and the raging battles between school districts and teachersunions over whether it is safe for teachers to return to campus before they are vaccinated.
    Paradoxically, the more good news there is on the apparently ebbing pandemic, the more difficult the schools question becomes since improving conditions will only build political pressure over the issue. New cases of Covid-19 are plummeting, hospitalizations are dropping and the pace of vaccinations are accelerating. The White House announced Wednesday that 1.7 million Americans are being vaccinated each day, based on a seven-day average — dal 1.1 million four weeks ago.
    All of this is a cause for considerable hope. But epidemiologists have been warning Americans, even those who have already received the vaccine, to continue to mask up and maintain social distancing because the virus could mutate in unpredictable ways leading to a fresh surge in cases this springarming teachersunions with a powerful new argument for holding off on returning to campus.
    The possibility that the current easing of the crisisalbeit with new cases far higher than during last summer’s Covid-19 spikecould just be the eye of the storm before a new wave of variant-driven infectionhelps explain some of the uncertainty about high schools and Biden’s apparently unambitious timeline for a return to normal life after he mentioned Christmas in the CNN town hall.
    While cases and hospitalizations continue to move in the right direction, we remain in the midst of a very serious pandemic, and we continue to have more cases than we did, even during last summer’s peak,” Dott. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a White House briefing on Wednesday. “The continued spread of variants that are more transmissible could jeopardize the progress we have made in the last month if we let our guard down,” lei disse, noting that as of Tuesday, the US has confirmed 1,277 cases of the B117 variant across 42 stati.
    It is more important than ever for us to do everything we can to decrease the spread in our communities by increasing our proven measures that prevent the spread of Covid-19,Walensky added. “Fewer cases means fewer opportunities for the variant to spread and fewer opportunities for new variants to emerge.
    La settimana scorsa, the CDC introduced a new set of guidelines to help local authorities judge when it was safe to go back. They include five key strategies including the universal and correct wearing of masks; physical distancing; washing hands; cleaning facilities and improving ventilation; and contact tracing, isolamento e quarantena.
    There are massive complications, tuttavia. It is going to be difficult in crowded, often old, school buildings to provide proper spacing and ventilation. Distancing on school buses is another challenge. And one reason why the return of high schoolers may be delayed is that their curriculum makes it harder to keep them divided into small groups and in one room.
    With this in mind, White House officials have been stepping up their calls for Congress to move quickly on Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief and economic rescue plan.
    Smaller class sizes, ensuring there are more school buses, having the equipment and the testing availablethis costs money. And that’s why the passage of the American Rescue Plan — il $ 130 miliardi per le scuole — is so important to do,” the White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said on Wednesday.

    Hazy messaging

    In the midst of that concern about emerging variants, the Biden administration’s messaging about what their exact goals arehow many days of in-person instruction in K-8 schools would constitute success, per esempio, and exactly how teachers should be prioritized in the vaccine lineuphas been hazy at best.
    La settimana scorsa, when White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked to define what Biden meant by open schools, she said the administration’s goal was have in-personteaching at least one day a week in the majority of schools by day 100.During the CNN town hall in Wisconsin Tuesday night, Biden said that was aa mistake in the communicationand said he’d like to see the majority of K-8 schools open five days a week.
    I think we’ll be close to that at the end of the first 100 giorni. We’ve had a significant percentage of them being able to be opened,” Biden told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
    On the question of whether vaccinations are a pre-requisite for returning to campus, Dott. Anthony Fauci, il massimo esperto di malattie infettive della nazione, said during a White House coronavirus briefing Wednesday thateven though we don’t feel that every teacher needs to be vaccinated before you can open a school, that doesn’t take away from the fact that we strongly support the vaccination of teachers.
    Psaki clarified the official White House position during her briefing Wednesday, stating thatneither the President, nor the vice president believes that (vaccinating teachers) is a requirementfor schools to return to in-person learning. She stressed that, in the interim, schools needed to be working on other mitigating measures to keep teachers safe like social distancing, smaller class sizes, better ventilation and sanitation. Many teachers’ sindacati, tuttavia, clearly don’t believe those measures amount to adequate protection.
    Attualmente 28 states and the District of Columbia are allowing some or all of their teachers and school staff to receive Covid-19 vaccines, but the availability of vaccines to teachers varies widely based on both state rules and guidelines by county.
    Ohio, per esempio, has a four-week plan to get all teachers vaccinated by March. In West Virginia, teachers over 50 are eligible for the vaccine, but it won’t be offered to those under 50 until a later date. In Nevada, counties determine eligibility and so teachers are only being vaccinated in some counties. All teachers are technically eligible in California under state guidelines, but counties determine the availability of shots for each groupand in Los Angeles, per esempio, teachers will not be able to make vaccination appointments until March 1.
    Exemplifying the complexity at the local level, elementary schools in Los Angeles County were finally cleared to open this week for the first time in almost a yearincluding in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second largest in the nationbecause the case rate in the county had finally fallen to 25 cases per 100,000 residenti. But as pressure mounts, the Los Angeles teachersunion said the calls for reopening werereckless.
    As more infectious and fatal variants are spreading, the state claims it’s safe to reopen when infections are at 25 cases per 100,000,said United Teachers Los Angeles President Cecily Myart-Cruz in a statement.
      The union noted that the district overwhelming serves low-income families of color, and that Black, Latino and Pacific Islander residents are continuing to die at disproportionately higher rates, while getting vaccinated at disproportionally lower rates.
      Resuming in-person instruction when cases are so high, and without proper health and safety protocols, will result in a yo-yo effect of closures, upending the very educational stability that our students and communities deserve,” lei disse.

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