In July 2020, Rochelle Walensky wrote a letter telling members of the Newton, Massachusetts City Council that “if people are masked it is quite safe and much more practical to be at 3 feet,” in relation to the reopening of America’s schools. After joining rank with the Biden administration, however, the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director changed her tune, telling reporters on Feb. 12 that “schools should require physical distancing of at least six feet.”
Biden announced the appointment of Walensky as the new director of the CDC on Dec. 7. The Harvard professor took the position from Robert R. Redfield, who was appointed under the leadership of President Trump.
Walensky was a professor of medicine and chief of infectious disease at Harvard University when she released that statement, making it further unclear as to how the seasoned professional could have changed her position so quickly. It seems in some ways that Walensky has been forced to conform to the ideological leanings concerning lockdowns in the Biden administration upon being tapped for her new role. At a White House press briefing on Feb.3, press secretary Jen Psaki walked back comments made by the CDC director concerning the vaccination of teachers.
“I want to be clear that there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely,” Walensky said. “Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite of safe reopening of schools.”
After a reporter prodded Psaki on these comments by Walensky, Psaki said the CDC “has not released their official guidance yet,” concerning policies for schools and vaccination.
The CDC last Friday released new school reopening guidance, which aims to keep most counties fully virtual with some in hybrid mode. Eighty-three percent of counties are in the “red” transmission zone for extracurriculars and sports, effectively limiting after-school activities for most students.
In July, Gov. Charlie Baker, R-Mass., released reopening guidelines for Massachusetts that permitted schools to practice three feet of social distancing. While unions exploded in anger, the most recent data from a Feb. 10 report shows that about 0.1 percent of 450,000 students contracted the virus. Many of these cases came from those who are practicing remote learning, thus these students did not contract the virus at school in the first place.
In an op-ed published in the Washington Post on Nov. 12, health official colleagues of Walensky’s from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health insisted that schools can safely operate by maintaining three feet between young students.