The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
This week CDC Director Rochelle Walensky certainly used poor wording, I hope, to discuss the reopening of schools nationwide.
Here’s the quote, taken from Bloomberg News. Dr. Walensky said, “There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen,” she said, adding that “safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely.”
With an understanding that speaking to the media can be flustering and on camera can be more so, I have a strong issue with the statement and a solution to the problem.
On a philosophical level, the statement presents a really big issue about what is ultimately important within the problem set of reopening schools. One thing that we have gained through the COVID nightmare is an understanding of the importance of education to our society. I hope it can last.
Walensky’s statement, simplified, says that we need to reopen schools and it can be done regardless of whether educators are vaccinated. A more liberal word choice would change just a few words. We need to reopen schools, “but” we need to vaccinate teachers and staff to keep us all safe. That puts people first.
If you’ve ever seen a crowded public school hallway, you’d know that social distancing and the ability to enforce a full mask mandate will be virtually impossible. Teachers and support staff get quite a disease exposure in a good year.
Walensky’s wording seemed to indicate that teachers were less important and that getting them vaccinated is less unimportant. Wording, though, can be excused.
Here’s the thing. Public schools are a segment of our society that regularly move thousands of people every day. Public school professionals are really good at it. Public schools come with school nurses and a full faculty and staff that can assist in the process and do any needed paperwork. In short, we can actually vaccinate all our teachers and support staff simply with planning, a few minutes training and a shipment to the site.
It is estimated that there are roughly 3 million teachers in the U.S. Add support staffers with room for the still significant administration and we round out with approximately 4 million people needing 8 million vaccine doses. Can do!
I’m an older guy who cut my teeth on politics when we were a “Can Do” nation. For 40 years we’ve been mesmerized about what we can’t do. It hasn’t gone well.
President Biden, I believe you are a liberal who harks back before the days when we let Republicans turn the word “liberal” into a dog whistle.
I recall a filmed interview with Hubert Humphrey, during the campaign of 1968, in which he was asked how he would solve a specific problem. His answer basically pointed out that government would run into problems in the future, but “we” have some very smart people who will work hard to solve them. That is the liberalism that I hope for in America’s new administration. Not a return to the times of Obama or Clinton, but to the hopes of Roosevelt, imperfect as he was.
So, here’s my challenge. Set up delivery of vaccines to schools, that’s all you need to do logistically. Then challenge schools to vaccinate all educators in a timely manner. I’ll bet we can do it on the day of delivery, but we’ll need your Bully Pulpit.
Mr. President, Joe, we can do this if you’ll do your part. I double dog dare you, no malarkey.
Jim Sinex is a retired science teacher and part-time voter advocate.