House Republicans slam Biden for using CDC guidelines to reopen schools

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Republicans are upset that President Joe Biden is using federal guidelines in determining policy.

Republican lawmakers are criticizing President Joe Biden for approaching the reopening of schools during the coronavirus pandemic in accordance with new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Feb. 12, the CDC released new guidelines setting masking and six feet of social distancing as top priorities for the safe reopening of schools. Expanded screening for the coronavirus and, when necessary, hybrid teaching, both in person and online, should also be available, the guidelines say. Vaccinating teachers could act as "an additional layer of protection," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, but should not be mandatory before reopening.

While the guidelines note that, in many cases, it is safe for students to return to school for in-person learning, they also emphasize that knowing the rate of community spread is critical in determining whether schools in a given area can safely open.

Walensky told reporters during a White House briefing by the Biden administration's COVID-19 response team on Feb. 8,

The data from schools suggests that there's very little transmission that is happening within the schools, especially when there's masking and distancing occurring. When there are transmissions in the schools, it is because they've been brought in from the community, and because there are breaches in masking and distancing. So if we want to get our schools open — and our schools open safely and well — the best way to do that is to decrease the community spread.   

The new CDC recommendations also include a color-coded chart featuring rates of community spread that school districts can use to monitor transmission of the virus.

Biden last week suggested a cautious reopening plan. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Feb. 9 that within 100 days, the administration hoped to have at least 51% of schools open for in-person learning at least one day per week.

After an outcry by conservatives that Biden's proposed goal was largely already met, Psaki clarified her remarks the next day, saying that goal was a minimum and that the administration hoped to exceed it in localities where it was safe to do so.

"Our objective — the President's objective — is for all schools to reopen, to stay open, to be open five days a week for kids to be learning. That's what our focus is on," Psaki said. "That is not the ceiling. That is the bar we're trying to leap over and exceed."

While Biden works to comply with the latest federal health guidelines in efforts to safely reopen schools, Republican lawmakers are criticizing him for not opening all schools in every region immediately.

"The Biden administration needs to let our students go back to school NOW," tweeted Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson. "We're doing irreparable harm to our children and working families by not allowing them to have a quality education IN SCHOOL."

"Congress has provided the funding and resources needed to safely reopen schools — now it's time for President Biden to make good on his promises, listen to the science, and work to safely reopen schools," tweeted Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA). "Our students and parents cannot wait any longer."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was even more critical in a tweet on Feb. 11: "It hasn't even been a month since President Biden has been in office and he has already caused devastating job loss for thousands of hardworking Americans and has given parents virtually no hope their children will be able to return to a regular school schedule."

That same day, Psaki said, "The President will not rest until every school is open five days a week. That is our goal."

Biden's American Rescue Plan economic relief package allocates $130 billion to safety measures needed to reopen schools.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.