President Joe Biden will not commit to choosing between teachers' unions and reopening schools, according to a White House spokesperson.
Teachers' unions around the country have demanded their members get vaccinated before returning to classrooms. Biden has said he wants schools open.
On Wednesday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky told media members at the White House that teachers didn't need to be vaccinated for schools to reopen for in-person learning.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday downplayed Walensky's message.
"Dr. Walensky spoke to this in her personal capacity," Psaki said, per Fox News. "Obviously, she's the head of the CDC. But we're going to wait for the final guidance to come out so we can use that as a guide for schools around the country."
Psaki added that other mitigating factors went into the decision to reopen schools. They included "the wearing of masks, social distancing, ventilation."
Asked if Biden would oppose teachers' unions, traditionally Democrat supporters, in favor of opening schools if negotiations continue, Psaki refused to commit.
"I think that's a little bit unfair how you pose that question," Psaki said. "But I will say the president believes schools should be open. Teachers want schools to be open, families want schools to be open. But we want to do it safely. And I'm not sure that any parent in this country would disagree with wanting their kids to go to school in a safe environment.
"The president of the United States wants schools to open. He wants them to stay open. And that is key, too. He doesn't want them to be open for a month ... he wants proper steps to be taken so that they can reopen and stay open."
Psaki spoke a day after Walensky said data showed schools can safely reopen without teachers being vaccinated.
"I want to be very clear about schools, which is: Yes, [Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices] has put teachers in the 1b category, the category of essential workers," Walensky said. "But I also want to be clear that there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely."
Teachers' unions have rejected local governments' efforts to open schools. Some unions have opposed reopening even after teachers had been vaccinated.
"Having the vaccine available for teachers ... does not solve all the problems," Washington Teachers' Union President Elizabeth Davis said, according to The Washington Post.
Republicans insist schools should reopen, and delaying further was unreasonable.
"Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, whose expertise was supposed to guide the Biden Administration's whole approach, said last week, quote, 'We can keep the children in school and get them back to school safely,'" Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday. "Apparently Big Labor's talking points have already displaced Dr. Fauci as the White House's go-to source."
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