On Friday, President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden delivered remarks about how the Biden administration is helping to keep students safe in classrooms.
Biden and the first lady, who visited Brookland Middle School in Washington, D.C., along with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, spoke to students, school staff, and the nation about keeping children safe in schools and how important the COVID-19 vaccines are.
Dr. Jill Biden praised parents for doing their best as the pandemic continues.
"Parents, this is hard," Dr. Biden said. "But you're doing your best. And I want you to know that you're not alone."
She said that the Biden administration would ensure that schools have the resources and the support they need to bring students back to the classroom.
"Today, our administration is making sure that schools like Brooklyn have the resources and the support they need to bring students back to class where they belong," Dr. Biden said. "We are going to partner with you because we cannot always know what the future holds, but we do know what we owe our children. We owe them a promise to keep their schools open as safe as possible. We owe them a commitment to follow the science."
Dr. Biden added that students are owed unity "so that we can fight the virus, not each other."
President Biden also reassured the nation that although children faced challenges academically and socially after being kept home from school during the pandemic, everything would be OK.
"I want folks to know that we are going to be OK," President Biden said. "We know what it takes to keep our children safe, and our schools open. And we have the tools to do it."
Biden also encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19.
"The safest thing you can do for your child is getting them vaccinated," Biden said. "That is it—simple, plain, straightforward. Parents, get your teenagers vaccinated. You got them vaccinated for all kinds of other things—Measles, mumps, rubella. To go to school and play sports, they have had those vaccinations. Get them vaccinated."
Biden also criticized Republican governors who accused him of overreaching with his plan to end the pandemic, calling them “cavalier."
"I am so disappointed, particularly that some of the Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids, so cavalier with the health of their communities," Biden said. "We are playing for real. This is not a game."
When asked by a reporter about potential legal challenges the administration might face about the new requirements, Biden responded, "Have at it."
After the visit, Mayor Bowser released a statement encouraging everyone to get vaccinated and thanking the president after the district received more than $386 million in American Rescue Plan funding to reopen safely.
"Through tireless planning and targeted investments, schools across the District have stood up strong, layered health and safety measures that protect our students, staff, and families, including universal masking, enhanced air filtration systems, and a vaccination requirement for all school staff," Mayor Bowser said in the news release.
President Joe Biden unveiled new plans Thursday on ways to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
During his speech to the nation, President Biden laid out a six-part plan to allow schools to reopen safely.
One of the plans was for teachers and staff at Head Start and Early Head Start programs to be required to get vaccinated.
He also pushed for masking and vaccine requirements for school teachers and staff at a local level.
Nine states, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, currently have vaccination requirements for K-12 school staff.
Biden also called on all schools to set up regular testing for COVID-19 that is consistent with CDC guidance.
The administration said they would also send additional federal support to assist schools in safely operating, including additional funding for testing.
Biden's remarks come as state data collected by the American Academy of Pediatrics revealed that over 250,000 children between the ages of 0 to 20 years old have tested positive for COVID-19.