New in the battle over school reopening: More reassurance from the CDC director

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky emphasized Wednesday that vaccinating teachers is not required for safely reopening schools.

“Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools,” Walensky said during a press briefing.

She added that while a CDC advisory committee has put teachers in the “1B” category for getting vaccines — the second priority group for vaccination — “I also want to be clear that there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that … safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely.”

The comments come as a fierce debate plays out over returning students to in-person learning.

Some teachers unions are calling for teachers to be vaccinated before they return to school.

The politics: Republicans have seized on the issue to argue the Biden administration is not following the science, and is instead caving to their political allies, by not urging an immediate return to in-person classes.

“Apparently Big Labor’s talking points have already displaced Dr. Fauci as the White House’s go-to source,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said on the Senate floor Wednesday.