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White House pushes for nation's schools to reopen by April

A nurse prepares to give COVID-19 vaccine shots

A nurse prepares to give COVID-19 vaccine shots to Eastport-South Manor school district employees Saturday in Manorville. Credit: Randee Daddona

The nation's schools could all reopen by April, the Biden administration signaled Sunday, despite concern about a potential surge of cases stemming from dangerous mutations of the coronavirus.

Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to President Joe Biden, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that "if we invest in the resources to make it safe, schools should reopen."

Richmond said passage of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package in Congress will "make sure that we give the school systems the ability to buy the masks, the ventilation systems, all of those things that are needed to open up."

Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Biden's chief medical adviser, said schools must continue to remain open. Teachers across the country have expressed concern about reopening before many more of them have been vaccinated, according to news reports.

"We are not going to get back to normal until we get the children back in school, for the good of the children, the good of the parents and the good of the community," Fauci said during an address Thursday to 6,000 teachers on a video call.

Richmond said the Biden administration was ramping up the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process.

"I think you see us doing everything humanly possible to make sure we ramp up vaccinations. We're delivering another 1.6 million to the states every week," Richmond said. "We just purchased another 200 million vaccinations so that we can vaccinate the whole 300 million adults that we need to do. And so we're going to keep pushing."

Janice Jackson, chief executive of the Chicago school system, said Sunday morning she was negotiating with the teachers' unions to avert a potential strike as the city prepares to expand reopenings.

"We believe that we have to reopen schools. We've been closed for almost a year now, and as a school system, we're starting to see some of the effects of schools being closed," Jackson said on CBS. "Many of our students aren't logged on," and minority students have been "hard hit."

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont told CBS anchor Margaret Brennan that "teachers are going to be in an early group" of testing in his state and are right now "a priority group."

However, he could not ensure that teachers would be prioritized over other emergency responders.

"It's a little complicated," he said. "I've got to be careful about how you prioritize."

Lamont said that 95% of his state's schools are open, and "we're going to be able to stay ahead of that curve" if vaccines continue to arrive at a steady pace.

One caveat, he said: "The only variant could be if the U.K. variant takes off like wildfire."

Also Sunday, Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist who advised the Biden transition team, said it was time to "call an audible."

Osterholm, speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," said the British variant of the virus would result in a new surge in "six to 14 weeks."

"If we see that happen, which my 45 years in the trenches tell us we will, we are going to see something like we have not seen yet in this country," Osterholm said.

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