Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said on Monday that although he has "mask fatigue," mask-wearing is still needed to keep schools open for children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It saddens me to think that poor policies and political agendas are going to get in the way of those kids getting on the field. We need to follow the mitigation strategies that we know work. Get the politics out of this. Let the education leaders do their jobs," Cardona said during an interview with CBS News. "To be very honest with you, I wish we didn't have to wear masks. I know my own children; they don't want to wear masks. I have mask fatigue myself. But if it means giving my children an opportunity to be in school, I'm for it."
He said earlier that "we know students learn best in the classroom. We know that for their — not only their academic needs, but their social and emotional well-being, they belong in the classroom."
When asked if it’s safe for schools to reopen "full-time with the delta variant" of COVID-19, Cardona said: "You know, as a father, I wouldn't send my children in if I didn't feel they were safe. I wouldn't ask anyone to do something that I wouldn't do for my own children. My children are going back to school. My children are getting on the soccer field. My children are getting on that volleyball court.
"Because I know as a father, that their mental health depends on their ability to engage in the community," he added. "And, I'm fortunate that my children are of the age where they can get vaccinated, and I know some parents will say, 'Well, my children don't have the vaccine.' But the reality is, if we follow the mitigation strategies, we can keep our children safe."
Cardona also said, when asked about mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for teachers and students, that he "would support" such a mandate, but said that he lacks the authority to impose such a requirement.
"I know that vaccines work. And I know that across the country 90% of the educators have gotten vaccinated," the secretary said. "I don't have that authority to mandate vaccines. But what I can tell you is in those places where they're relaxed about it, we have hospitals that are overrun. And those places where they are getting vaccinated, we're able to function more normally."
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