CDC Director, Secretary of Education Discuss Return to School in Roxbury

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona were in Boston Friday for a town hall to discuss the return to school amid rising COVID-19 cases

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U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky joined the YMCA of Greater Boston and Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston for a town hall on Friday.

The event was held at the Yawkey Boys & Girls Club of Roxbury, with a select audience of parents and students able to ask questions about plans to keep kids safe when returning to school amid rising COVID cases fueled by the delta variant.

Cardona and Walensky also discussed how the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs are integral to assist with improving student outcomes, academic achievement and social-emotional development.

Walensky urged people who are eligible to be vaccinated to do so, especially given the highly-transmissible delta variant.

"It will find our vulnerable places," Walensky said. "It will find places that are undervaccinated, it'll find places where we're not doing our best to conquer it."

The CDC is recommending everyone to wear masks in school, regardless of vaccination status.

"Our guidance right now is that anybody who's entering the school, students, staff, teachers, visitors, be masked at all times in the school," said Walensky. "And that's partially related to the fact that we don't have enough of the critical mass vaccinated yet."

The town hall was hosted by NBC10 Boston's Latoyia Edwards, who spoke one-on-one with Walensky after the event.

"The best way to keep our children safe is to surround them by people who are vaccinated," said Walensky.

Cardona says kids were just fine wearing masks in school last year.

"Kids wanted to be around each other," he said. "They're willing to do what they have to do. What we're finding is the controversy is an adult controversy."

As the first day of school approaches, coronavirus cases among children are rising, and with them concerns about safety in the classrooms. The American Academy of Pediatrics said child infections are up 84% in just the last week.

As scores of unvaccinated students get ready to return to classrooms, the Massachusetts Department of Education has said its top three priorities are health and safety, supporting mental health, and helping kids catch up after more than a year of remote learning.

"Politics doesn't have a role in this. Educators know what to do, we did it last year. So I have calls out to those states, but at the end of the day, I want to work with Texas. I want to work with Florida. I want to make sure those students have access to in-person learning," Cardona said. "At the end of the day, we're all in this together."

Students who are 11 and under are not yet eligible for the vaccine, but Walensky said Friday that could change by the end of the year.

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