CNN anchor John Berman on Tuesday pressed White House spokesperson Symone Sanders on whether teachers must be vaccinated before children can return to the classroom, just as the Biden administration is facing increased pressure from parents on when schools will reopen.
“It’s not a trick question, and I feel like you guys have treated it like a trick question,” Berman said to Sanders, who is Vice President Harris’s chief spokesperson.
“I think people just want to know what the White House position is on whether or not teachers have to be vaccinated for kids to return safely to school,” Berman added, noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director has said the science indicates teachers don’t necessarily have to be vaccinated for in-person learning to resume.
“The president and vice president believe that teachers should be prioritized for receiving the vaccination along with other frontline workers,” Sanders responded, adding that “that’s exactly what’s happening” in many states across the country.
Berman continued to press, asking, “Is it necessary though? That’s the question, and it really is a yes/no question.”
“I think the real question, frankly, if I can be frank here is, what you’re getting to is, is it safe for kids to go back to school—,” Sanders began.
“In this case that’s not the question. The question is, is it safe for teachers to go back to school,” Berman interjected, adding that it is a “very specific question.”
“I don’t understand why it’s a hard question to answer,” he added.
CNN's @JohnBerman presses VP Harris Chief Spokesperson Symone Sanders on teacher vaccinations:
“It’s not a trick question. I feel like you guys have treated it like a trick question … Is it safe for teachers to go back to school?”
— The Recount (@therecount) February 17, 2021
Vice President Harris was asked a similar question Wednesday morning on NBC on whether she could reassure teachers that it is safe to go back to school even if they are not vaccinated, as long as health safety measures like mask-wearing are being implemented.
“Teachers should be a priority along with other frontline workers, and we’re going to make them a priority,” Harris responded to NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie.
“But if they’re not vaccinated is it safe for them?” Guthrie pressed.
“Well, I think that we have to decide if we can put in place safe measures,” Harris said, before pivoting to emphasize how much schools will benefit from the relief bill the Biden administration is trying to push through Congress.
“I don’t want to beat it to death, but I know there are teachers listening,” Guthrie interjected, noting the CDC director’s guidance that teachers do not necessarily have to be vaccinated before returning to the classroom.
“We think they should be a priority,” Harris repeated.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 17, 2021
The exchange came after President Biden contradicted his press secretary during a CNN town hall Tuesday night, saying Jen Psaki’s claim that the administration’s school reopening goal was limited to one day per week was a “a mistake in the communication.”
“I think we’ll be close to that at the end of the first 100 days. We have had a significant percentage of them being able to be opened,” Biden told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
Pressed for details on what “open” meant, Biden responded, “I think many of them five days a week. The goal will be five days a week.”
After Biden corrected her during his town hall, Psaki attempted to clarify the administration’s goals for reopening public schools.
“Last week I said @POTUS goal was to open schools five days a week as quickly as possible. And that we are going to rely on science. Which is exactly what we are doing,” Psaki wrote in a tweet.