Ex-CDC chief: COVID-19 surge will make it ‘challenging’ for schools to stay open


John Marro, the dean of students at P.S. 347, The American Sign Language and English Lower School, in New York, takes students’ temperatures as they arrive on the first day after the holiday break, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. New York City schools reopened Monday after the holiday break despite a surge in coronavirus infections. (AP Photo/Jennifer Peltz)

(The Hill) – A former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday said a recent surge in coronavirus cases will make it difficult for schools to stay open for in-person instruction in the coming weeks.

“I think it’s going to make it challenging for many schools to stay open,” Richard Besser, the former director of the CDC and now the president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in an appearance on NBC’s “Today.”

“A lot of teachers, a lot of staff are going to come down with COVID. And whether schools are going to be able to remain open with the limited staff we’ll have to see.”

Health experts attribute the recent nationwide surge in cases to the highly-contagious omicron variant of the virus, although national rates of hospitalization and deaths have fallen significantly since last year.

As vaccines and booster shots become more widely available, many schools districts have been attempting to return to full-time in-person instruction for students, teachers and staff. 

Besser said any parent who has a child who exhibits any symptoms of a cold should keep them out of school.

“What parents can be thinking about is whether or not your schools are requiring masks,” he said. “And if your child is in an age range where they are eligible to be vaccinated, talk to your doctor, get your questions answered. I really encourage parents to get their children vaccinated.” 

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