Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) released new coronavirus guidance Thursday, as President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration approaches, insisting “schools need to be open.”
State agencies are now prioritizing in-person instruction, reported Richmond.com, after months of the Trump administration urging states to reopen schools.
“Instead of ‘schools should be closed,’ we’re going to approach it from the starting point of ‘schools need to be open,’” Northam said at a briefing.
“Every school division will have to decide what works best for it,” the governor added.
The guidance, which urges schools to expand in-person learning as much as possible, depending on virus outbreaks and staff shortages, replaces one delivered in July, which held to a phased-in approach to reopening schools.
“As Virginia enters Phase 3 of Forward Virginia and we prepare for the start of the school year, it remains clear that schools, working together with local health departments, have an important role in slowing the spread of diseases and protecting vulnerable students and staff,” the old guidance stated.
As early as July, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) testified to a House Oversight subcommittee that failure to reopen K-12 schools in the United States would be devastating to the health and development of American children.
Redfield repeated his call to reopen schools in November.
“The truth is for kids K–12, one of the safest places they can be, from our perspective, is to remain in school,” he said during a press briefing at the White House with the coronavirus task force led by Vice President Mike Pence.
Then, in early December, the CDC director again urged schools to reopen, asserting K-12 schools are not a major cause of coronavirus contagion.
“You know, I was very disappointed in New York when they closed schools, when they hit their three percent point,” he said during an interview with CDC officials and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“[B]ecause … we now have substantial data that shows that schools’ face-to-face learning can be conducted in K-12, and particularly in the elementary and middle schools in a safe and responsible way,” Redfield continued, explaining infections that do occur among teachers and students are largely due to the spread of the virus within communities or in homes.
“We’re not seeing intra-school transmission,” Redfield affirmed.
Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction, James Lane, said he expects, with the new guidance, “our school boards to look at this and make decisions based on a much more clear matrix around how to do this decision-making.”
According to Richmond.com, as of December, about 40 percent of Virginia’s 132 school districts were offering only remote learning.
Lane joined the state’s health commissioner, Norman Oliver, in a letter to local school and health officials that stated “long-term school closures as a mitigation strategy for COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] transmission may cause inadvertent harm to children.”
“[F]or example, children who do not have in-person instruction may suffer learning loss with long-term effects, mental health issues, or a potential regression in social skills,” the letter warned.
A report released in December by the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) showed that 90 percent of Christian schools in the country opened the 2020-2021 academic year with in-person instruction as planned, despite the pandemic.
However, as President Donald Trump leaves office, more announcements come about reopening states.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), for example, vowed this week to reopen his state’s economy.
“We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass,” Cuomo tweeted January 11. “The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open.”
Breitbart News reported:
For months during the coronavirus pandemic, Cuomo has consistently implemented harsh restrictions on businesses in the state, closing certain restaurants and stores for periods of time and threatening to shut down restaurants that fail to adhere to the state’s restrictions.
In September, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer was heard telling school officials on a conference call that K-12 schools in the county would not be opening until after the November election.
“We don’t realistically anticipate that we would be moving to either Tier 2 or to reopening K through 12 schools at least until after the election, after early November,” Ferrer was heard saying. “When we just look at the timing of everything, it seems to us a more realistic approach to this would be to think that we’re going to be where we are now until we are done with the election.”