Biden promotes safe school reopening amid rise in COVID-19 cases among kids

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — On the heels of President Joe Biden announcing a new plan to tackle COVID-19 in schools, he and first lady Jill Biden are stopping at a local elementary school to encourage safety in classrooms.

The visit comes after Biden announced Thursday night several measures he planned to take that would make back to school safer with the delta variant causing a rise in COVID-19 cases among children.

“We know that if schools follow the science, and implement the safety measures like testing, masking, adequate ventilation systems, social distancing, and vaccinations, then children can be safe from COVID-19 in schools,” Biden stated in his speech to the nation.

Additional federal financial support will be sent by the Department of Education to assist schools in safely operating, including additional funding for testing.

Separately, the Department of Health and Human Services will require vaccinations in Head Start Programs, as well as schools run by the Department of Defense and Bureau of Indian Education, affecting about 300,000 employees.

Biden has encouraged COVID-19 vaccine requirements in settings like schools, workplaces and university campuses.

While multiple cities have voted to make vaccines mandatory for staff members, students have mostly been encouraged but not required to get a COVID-19 shot. On Thursday, the Los Angeles Board of Education became among the first to require all students 12 and older to be fully vaccinated in the the nation’s second-largest school district.

Biden has stressed the need for mask mandates in schools to protect children who are unvaccinated against COVID-19. Mask mandates in classrooms has remained a polarizing issue, with some states outright banning any school district from imposing a mask requirement.

The Department of Education has announced a grant program to finance the budgets for school districts that lose money by going against state law and imposing mask requirements in the classroom.

More than 177 million Americans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, but confirmed cases have shot up in recent weeks to an average of about 140,000 per day with on average about 1,000 deaths, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most of the spread — and the vast majority of severe illness and death — is occurring among those not yet fully vaccinated. So-called breakthrough infections in vaccinated people occur, but tend to be far less dangerous.