Biden presses states to require vaccines for all teachers

Sep 9, 2021, 9:55 AM | Updated: Sep 11, 2021, 4:31 am
President Joe Biden speaks at Brookland Middle School, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 in Washington. Biden ...

President Joe Biden speaks at Brookland Middle School, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 in Washington. Biden has encouraged every school district to promote vaccines, including with on-site clinics, to protect students as they return to school amid a resurgence of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Hoping to prevent another school year from being upended by the pandemic, President Joe Biden visited a Washington middle school Friday to push his new COVID plan, accusing some Republican governors of being “cavalier” with the health of children.

Biden’s plan, announced a day earlier, would require vaccinations for up to 100 million Americans and seek to ramp up virus testing. With those measures in place, he said, schools should present little risk for transmission of the coronavirus.

“I want folks to know that we’re going to be OK,” Biden said during an appearance at Brookland Middle School, a short drive from the White House. “We know what it takes to keep our kids safe and our schools open.”

But as the surging COVID-19 delta variant casts uncertainty over the start of a new school year — in some cases prompting schools to shut down after a few days — it’s unclear whether Biden’s plan will go far enough to prevent mass disruption. Biden has little direct authority over most schools, which are generally governed at the local level, and his plan faces sharp resistance from Republicans.

Under his expanded vaccine mandate, all employers with more than 100 workers must require them to get shots or test for the virus weekly. A separate provision requires vaccines for workers in Head Start programs and at schools operated by the federal government, affecting about 300,000 workers.

The plan does not explicitly require vaccines for teachers in locally governed schools, but some education leaders believe the employer rule will effectively amount to a teacher vaccine requirement in many states.

That part of the plan is being enacted through a forthcoming rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. And in states with OSHA plans, teachers will be among those required to get the vaccine or face testing, according to an interpretation by AASA, an association of school superintendents.

It’s expected to apply to 26 states, including several with Republican governors who opposed Biden’s plan, such as South Carolina, Tennessee and Arizona.

Biden did not address that aspect of his plan on Friday. Instead, he urged states to issue their own vaccine requirements for school workers.

“About 90% of school staff and teachers are vaccinated — we should have that at 100%,” Biden said. “I’m calling on all of the governors to require vaccination for all teachers and staff.”

Governors in a few states have already ordered teachers to get vaccinated, including in California, Oregon, New Jersey and New York. But most leave it up to school districts, and some Republican-led states have barred vaccine mandates.

Biden on Friday rebuked Republican governors who vowed to fight his new rules.

“I am so disappointed that, particularly, some Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids, so cavalier with the health of their communities,” he said. “We’re playing for real here. This isn’t a game.”

But most of his remarks struck a more conciliatory tone than a Thursday speech in which Biden vented his own frustrations with those who remain unvaccinated. He returned to a message of unity on Friday, insisting that “we’ve got to come together” to beat the virus.

Speaking to students at Brookland, Biden applauded those who had already been vaccinated. If all of them get shots, Biden promised to invite them to a special visit at the White House.

He also held up Washington, D.C., as a model. The city has hosted vaccine clinics at its public schools, and 65% of children age 12 to 17 have gotten at least their first shot, a rate that Biden said is among the highest in the nation.

In a plea to America’s families, Biden urged parents to get teenagers and other eligible children vaccinated as soon as possible. He argued that it’s no different than standard vaccinations for measles, mumps, rubella and other diseases.

Among the greatest threats to his plan, however, is the large population of children who are still too young to get the shot. Most elementary and middle schools have children below age 12 who have not been approved to receive the coronavirus vaccines.

Speaking to those concerns, Biden said he supports an “independent” scientific process to review the shots but he also promised to make them available to younger children as soon as it’s safe.

“I will do everything within my power to support the Food and Drug Administration in its efforts to do the science as safely and as quickly as possible,” he said.

The expanded vaccine mandate does not apply to students, but some districts have moved to require shots for students. The Los Angeles district this week became the first major district to enact a mandate for students ages 12 and up.

In addition to vaccines, Biden’s plan aims to ramp up virus testing in schools.

Testing policies vary widely by school and state. Some districts regularly test all students, including in the Los Angeles district, while some forgo any testing. And for many, it’s getting harder to find testing supplies amid a nationwide shortage in rapid tests.

As part of the White House plan, the government is working to increase the supply of virus tests and make them available at retailers including Walmart and Amazon. Biden said it will lead to 300 million more coronavirus tests, including some for schools.

“I want all schools setting up regular testing programs to make sure we detect and isolate cases before they can spread,” Biden said.

The plan drew support from the country’s two largest teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. Both groups have also endorsed vaccine mandates for all teachers and school staff.

Other education groups that support the plan include the National School Boards Association, which said it comes at an “extremely critical time.” The group said it welcomes Biden’s support even as education leaders face “threats, abuse and harassment” over their public health measures.

Speaking alongside Biden on Friday, first lady Jill Biden praised educators as “heroes” for their work over the past year. A longtime community college professor, the first lady said Americans have a duty to protect students as they return to the classroom.

“We owe them a promise to keep their schools open as safe as possible,” she said. “We owe them a commitment to follow the science — we owe them unity so that we can fight the virus, not each other.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A doze of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)...
Associated Press

FDA backs Pfizer COVID-19 boosters for seniors, high-risk

The U.S. moved a step closer Wednesday to offering booster doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to senior citizens and others at high risk from the virus.
23 hours ago
Claudine Humure, of Rwanda, takes a step with her new prosthetic leg as Arthur Graham, prosthetist ...
Associated Press

A leg up on life: Tech helps former Rwandan orphan give back

NEWTON, Mass. (AP) — She was orphaned during Rwanda’s genocide and lost much of one of her legs to childhood cancer, but Claudine Humure has dreams of giving back to her once war-torn homeland. First, though, she needed a new leg to propel her on the next part of her journey. The 29-year-old, who spent […]
23 hours ago
FILE - In this Sept. 3, 2021 file photo, people clear debris and damaged belongings from their home...
Associated Press

After Northeast flooding, insurance woes swamp residents

NEW YORK (AP) — After being pummeled by two tropical storms that submerged basements, cracked home foundations and destroyed belongings, Northeastern U.S. residents still in the throes of recovery are being hit with another unexpected blow: Thousands of families are now swamped with financial losses because they didn’t have flood insurance. Most of those caught […]
23 hours ago
Woody Faircloth hugs Sheri Roen as her family donates their motorhome to EmergencyRV.org on Sunday,...
Associated Press

Wildfire victims left with nothing get hope from donated RVs

QUINCY, Calif. (AP) — Clutching a bag full of duct tape and snacks, Woody Faircloth climbs aboard a motorhome complete with carpet and drapes. At his side, his 9-year-old daughter, Luna, quizzes a family who has just donated the recreational vehicle, appropriately called Residency. In the distance, above hills dotted with sagebrush, smoke billows from […]
23 hours ago
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi speaks during an interview with The Associated Pre...
Associated Press

The AP Interview: Top Pakistan diplomat details Taliban plan

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Be realistic. Show patience. Engage. And above all, don’t isolate. Those are the pillars of an approach emerging in Pakistan to deal with the fledgling government that is suddenly running the country next door once again — Afghanistan’s resurgent, often-volatile Taliban. Pakistan’s government is proposing that the international community develop a […]
23 hours ago
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks to reporters as she welcomes Australian Prime Mi...
Associated Press

Biden presses fellow Dems: Resolve party split on $3.5T plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — With a personal push, President Joe Biden pressed fellow Democrats to hasten work on his big “build back better” agenda, telling them to come up with a final framework and their best topline budget figure as the party labors to bridge its divisions in Congress ahead of crucial voting deadlines. Biden and […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
By IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
By Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
By Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...
By Alaska Airlines

Calling all football fans: follow Russell on the road

Take your Northwest spirit that we’re known for on the road this season with Alaska Airlines.
...
By Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
Biden presses states to require vaccines for all teachers