Education Secretary Miguel Cardona says the nation is "clearly at a fork in the road" on COVID-19 mandates but urged school officials to take measures to help students be in school in person "and keep them safe."
"We're clearly at a fork in the road in this country," Cardona said on CBS’ "Face the Nation." "You're either going to help students be in school in person and be safe, or the decisions you make will hurt students. While I understand the argument around not wanting to wear masks because we're fatigued, without question student safety and staff safety come first."
Cardona said he also spoke with officials in Arkansas, Florida, and Texas about reopening schools but when asked whether he made any progress responded: "You know, I think what we're seeing across the country is we recognize the importance of vaccinations and the president put a charge on all of us. Let's get our vaccination pop-up clinics set up in our schools where students feel comfortable going to get it. And I think everyone across the country agrees on that. I believe strongly that we need to do everything, including our mitigation strategies, to make sure our students are safe. The data is showing us that in places where they're not following those mitigation strategies, we're putting students at risk. We can't accept that."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last week issued an executive order that leaves it up to parents to decide whether their children wear face coverings in school. School boards that don’t eliminate mask mandates could face the loss of state funding.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott is refusing to enact any mandates for masks and vaccines and prohibiting local officials from doing so.
"I did talk to Gov. Abbott, and I spoke to the commissioner in Florida," Cardona said. "We need to work together to make sure our schools are safe for all students and for our staff."
The Dallas Independent School District on Monday announced that it would require students and teachers to wear masks at its campuses, defying Abbott’s order.
"We’re in a situation that has gotten significantly more urgent," Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said.
The CDC supports a return to in-person learning but recommends that everyone inside schools wear masks regardless of vaccination status.
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