The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to unveil guidelines on Friday for reopening schools amid the coronavirus pandemic as White House officials have offered shifting answers on their goals for returning children to in-person learning.
"There is no debate over whether to open schools here. There’s a debate over how. And if it were as simple as open all the schools, they would be open now," Andy Slavitt, a senior adviser to the White House on the pandemic response, said on MSNBC early Thursday.
"Tomorrow, the CDC is going to roll out their operating plan to give school districts, local communities, the guidance they need to do that," Slavitt added.
White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Democrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE, who has faced repeated questions over the last two weeks about reopening schools, added during a briefing later Thursday that the administration would use the CDC recommendations to guide its decisionmaking and outreach to school districts.
"The president wants schools to open safely and in accord with science, and we are going to listen to science and medical experts," she said.
Psaki again sought to clarify the White House's goals for reopening schools after coming under scrutiny for saying earlier this week that Biden's goal of having schools open within his first 100 days office meant more than 50 percent of schools were holding at least one day of in-person learning each week by the end of that time frame.
"The president will not rest until every school is open five days a week. That is our goal," Psaki said. "That is what we want to achieve. But we look forward to seeing and hearing the CDC guidelines to gain a better understanding of what steps that will entail or should entail."
Biden said during the transition that one of his goals for his first 100 days in office would be to get kids back in school for in-person learning.
But Psaki's previous comments, initially downplaying comments from the CDC director saying vaccinating teachers was not a prerequisite for reopening schools and later setting a low bar for the definition of reopening schools, have highlighted the difficult line the administration is walking on the issue.
Critics have pointed out that many school districts across the country are already conducting in-person learning at least one day a week and argued children are at risk of falling behind if the issue is not addressed more urgently.
Psaki said Thursday that one issue hindering the administration's rollout of a plan is a lack of data on the safety of in-person learning.