Students and parents share Covid-19 concerns as the school year starts

By Fernando Alfonso III, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 7:59 p.m. ET, September 10, 2021
15 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
12:54 p.m. ET, September 10, 2021

Definition of "fully vaccinated" could change based on addition of boosters, CDC director says

From CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht

(Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)
(Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)

For now, “fully vaccinated” means either two doses of an mRNA Covid-19 vaccine or one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, but that may change based on recommendations for additional doses, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Friday.

Responding to a question on whether requirements for federal workers and contractors to be fully vaccinated will include a booster dose, Walensky said that the question will be asked of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

“Currently, fully vaccinated is two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or a single dose of J&J. I anticipate over time that may be updated, but we will leave that to our advisers...to give us some recommendations,” she said in a White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing. 

US health officials have previously announced a plan to begin to offer booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines the week of Sept. 20. The US Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisers are planning to meet Sept. 17 to discuss Pfizer/BioNTech’s application for approval of boosters of its coronavirus vaccine. Moderna has also submitted data to the FDA for approval of booster doses.

12:11 p.m. ET, September 10, 2021

White House anticipates enforcement of new employer vaccine mandates coming in "weeks"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The White House indicated it could be a matter of “weeks” before President Biden’s new vaccine mandate for employers with over 100 staff goes into effect via OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

“The Secretary of Labor (Marty Walsh) will oversee the rulemaking process with OSHA. We anticipate that that'll come across the coming weeks, and then will be implemented for all employers above 100 employees the need to get vaccinated or tested a minimum of once per week,” White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters Friday when pressed for specifics on the timeline for implementation. 

Asked what the punishment could be for companies that do not abide by the mandates on vaccines and/or testing, Zients suggested there could be steep fines. 

“If a workplace refuses to follow the standard, the OSHA fines can be quite significant. Enforcement actions can include fines up to $13,600 per violation,” Zients said.

12:05 p.m. ET, September 10, 2021

How kids can stay safe during the Delta variant surge

From CNN's Holly Yan

Students return to class on the first day of school at the Jericho, New York school district on August 26, 2021.
Students return to class on the first day of school at the Jericho, New York school district on August 26, 2021. (Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday RM/Getty Images)

Millions of students are heading back to school with a challenge they didn't have to face last year.

The more contagious Delta variant is fueling a nationwide Covid-19 surge that's sending younger people to hospitals – including children.

The best weapon for students ages 12 and up is vaccination, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. But kids too young to get vaccinated also have ways to help dodge Delta.

Before heading out: Minor symptoms that may have been overlooked in the past – such as a runny nose – shouldn't be ignored now, said pediatrician Dr. Steven Abelowitz, regional medical director of Coastal Kids Pediatrics in California.

"With the current rise in Covid cases, especially in children, it is advised that parents of children even with minor symptoms should contact their pediatrician to rule out Covid," Abelowitz said, matching guidance from the CDC.

Of course, some kids can get or spread the Delta variant without symptoms. So precautions during other parts of the day are important.

At the bus stop: When chatting with a friend outdoors, "the risk of acquiring coronavirus is very low," CNN medical analyst and emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen said.

"Therefore, waiting at the bus stop or recess or coming out of the school, masks can be taken off."

But if there are many children crowded together, "even though it's outdoors, if you're unvaccinated ... the advantages of masks are going to outweigh the disadvantages," Abelowitz said.

On the school bus: "Mask wearing is absolutely critical because you're in close proximity in an enclosed space," Wen said.

"Make sure to be wearing a mask that covers your nose and your mouth. It should be at least the quality of a 3-ply surgical mask," she said.

"There are also KN95s, depending on the age of the child, that are even better. But the mask should be at least a 3-ply surgical mask. A cloth mask is not sufficient."

The importance of masks this year: The CDC recommends students from kindergarten through grade 12 wear masks in school as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads nationwide.

The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends masks in schools for everyone over age 2.

The Delta variant has been a game changer, Abelowitz said.

New pediatric Covid-19 cases are "significantly higher than a few months ago -- and climbing quite rapidly," he said.

Get masks that kids actually like: There's no point in wearing a mask if a child keeps tugging at it or taking it off in school.

"This is something that does take getting used to," Wen said. "It may be good to practice wearing the mask at home and making sure that you're OK with that type of mask."

11:15 a.m. ET, September 10, 2021

Biden to GOP governors challenging vaccine mandates: "Have at it"

U.S. President Joe Biden in the State Dining Room of the White House as he spoke about combatting the coronavirus pandemic on September 9, 2021.
U.S. President Joe Biden in the State Dining Room of the White House as he spoke about combatting the coronavirus pandemic on September 9, 2021. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

President Biden was just asked to respond to some Republican governors who have called his vaccine requirements an overreach and have suggested it may be challenged in court.

"Have at it," Biden said. "Look, I am so disappointed that particularly some of the Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids — so cavalier for the health of their communities."

He continued: "We're playing for real here. This isn't a game. And I don't know of any scientist out there in this field that doesn't think it makes us considerable sense to do the six things I've suggested."

Biden also lamented the political polarization in the nation as some Republican governors have issued statewide bans on mask mandates and vaccines have become an area of deep division. 

“One of the lessons I hope our students are going to learn is that politics doesn’t have to be this way… They’re growing up in an environment where they see it’s like a war. Like a bitter feud. If the Democrat says right, everybody says left… It’s not who we are as a nation and it’s not how we beat every other crisis in our country. We gotta come together,” he said.

Yesterday, Biden unveiled a six-pronged plan to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and stringent new vaccine rules on federal workers, large employers and health care staff.

The new requirements could apply to as many as 100 million Americans — close to two-thirds of the American workforce — and amount to Biden's strongest push yet to require vaccines for much of the country.

CNN's Betsy Klein contributed reporting to this post.

11:31 a.m. ET, September 10, 2021

Biden urges parents to vaccinate their children

President Joe Biden speaks at Brookland Middle School, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 in Washington. Biden has encouraged every school district to promote vaccines, including with on-site clinics, to protect students as they return to school amid a resurgence of the coronavirus.
President Joe Biden speaks at Brookland Middle School, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 in Washington. Biden has encouraged every school district to promote vaccines, including with on-site clinics, to protect students as they return to school amid a resurgence of the coronavirus. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

President Biden urged parents to vaccinate their children against Covid-19 today while visiting a school in Washington, DC.

"The safest thing that you could do for your child 12 and over is get them vaccinated. That is it. Simple, plain, straightforward and get them vaccinated. So parents get your teenagers vaccinated," Biden said.

Currently, children 12 and older are eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. Children under 12 remain ineligible.

Biden went on to say that his administration would work to bring vaccine clinics to schools as well.

Some background: On Thursday, Biden unveiled a six-step Covid-19 plan, which includes vaccine requirements for educators in federal Head Start programs. Biden will also call on governors to require vaccinations for schoolteachers and staff.

The President promised to make up the salary of any teacher or administrator whose pay was withheld by a state opposing mask requirements.

Infections and hospitalizations among kids are rising, which worries experts, but they are still the least likely age group to get sick or die from the virus. Among recent infections, more than a quarter were children, but less than 3% of hospitalizations are for children. Some younger kids develop an inflammatory ailment — MISC-C —after contracting Covid-19. That can keep them hospitalized for weeks.

"Now for any parent, it doesn't matter how low the risk of any illnesses whether it could happen to your child. But we all know if schools follow the science and they are here and implement safety measures, like vaccinations, testing, masking, and children could be safe in schools, safe from Covid-19. My plan does all of these things," Biden said today.

Reporting from CNN's Zachary B. Wolf contributed to this post.

10:53 a.m. ET, September 10, 2021

Biden invites all vaccinated kids at DC school he's visiting to come to the White House

President Joe Biden tours Brookland Middle School on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 in Washington.
President Joe Biden tours Brookland Middle School on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 in Washington. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

While visiting a school in Washington, DC, today, President Biden urged parents to vaccinate their children against Covid-19, sweetening the deal by inviting vaccinated kids to the White House.

"For students here at Brookland, once you all get vaccinated, you're invited to a special visit at the White House," the President said. 

"I'm going to get in trouble with the Secret Service and everybody else," Biden said in what appeared to be an impromptu invite.

"I'm not sure how we'll mechanically do it, but I assume the buses can get you to the White House and if we can't get you all in one room, we'll be out in the Rose Garden or out in the back there, and maybe let you fly the helicopters. I'm only joking about that," Biden added.

10:40 a.m. ET, September 10, 2021

NOW: President Biden speaks about school safety 

President Biden is delivering remarks on how the administration is helping keep students safe in classrooms.

"I want folks to know that we're going to be okay. We're going to be okay. We know what it takes to keep our children safe and our schools open," Biden said while also acknowledging that the pandemic has added another degree of anxiety to return to school.

The President is visiting a local school in Washington, DC, alongside Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

Biden's remarks come as more US children are getting hit hard by Covid-19. A record-high 2,396 children were hospitalized with Covid-19 as of Tuesday, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. While childhood Covid-19 deaths are still rare, that number is increasing. As of Wednesday, at least 520 children have died, according to CDC data.

The President on Thursday announced a major expansion to free testing, a step public health officials have said is critical to containing the virus, particularly as children return to school and some workers return to offices.

Biden also imposed stringent new vaccine rules on federal workers, large employers and health care staff in a sweeping attempt to contain the latest surge of Covid-19.

CNN's Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins contributed reporting to this post. 

11:17 a.m. ET, September 10, 2021

Los Angeles school board votes to mandate Covid-19 vaccine for eligible students age 12 and over

From CNN's Dakin Andone, Stella Chan and Cheri Mossburg

A syringe is filled with a first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination clinic during a back to school event offering school supplies, Covid-19 vaccinations, face masks, and other resources for children and their families at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA in Los Angeles, California on August 7, 2021.
A syringe is filled with a first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination clinic during a back to school event offering school supplies, Covid-19 vaccinations, face masks, and other resources for children and their families at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA in Los Angeles, California on August 7, 2021. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

All eligible children attending Los Angeles Unified public schoo— -- the nation's second largest school distri—ct -- will be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of the calendar year, the school board of education has voted.

In a special meeting held Thursday, the Los Angeles Unified School Board decided a mandate was appropriate based on the sudden surge of the virus brought about by the Delta variant and data showing lower rates of infection and hospitalization among those who are vaccinated.

The proposal approved Thursday requires all eligible students 12 years of age and older to receive their first Covid-19 vaccine doses by no later than November 21, and their second doses by no later than December 19. Students who participate in in-person extracurricular activities, including sports, face an earlier deadline of October 3 for a first dose of the vaccine and a second dose no later than October 31.

The district, which includes more than 600,000 students, already mandates the vaccine for teachers and staff, requires face coverings be worn by all, and tests all students and staff for infections weekly. Classrooms have also been outfitted with enhanced ventilation systems in an effort to decrease the spread of the virus.

District spokesperson Shannon Haber was not able to provide the number of students affected by Thursday's decision, but noted that many students have already been inoculated.

11:18 a.m. ET, September 10, 2021

President Biden just announced more stringent vaccine rules for federal workers

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about combatting the coronavirus pandemic in the State Dining Room of the White House on September 9, 2021 in Washington, DC.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about combatting the coronavirus pandemic in the State Dining Room of the White House on September 9, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

President Biden, speaking from the White House Thursday, said he will sign an executive order requiring all federal workers be vaccinated against Covid-19, with no option of being regularly tested to opt out of the requirement.

The President said he will also sign an executive order directing the same standard be extended to employees of contractors who do business with the federal government. The Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Indian Health Service and National Institutes of Health will also complete their previously announced vaccination requirements, which the White House estimates covers 2.5 million workers.

The new announcements move beyond what Biden announced earlier this summer, when he required federal workers be vaccinated but allowed for those who opted out to be subject to stringent mitigation measures. The White House has said the federal government should act as a model for other businesses in their own vaccine mandates, and has praised large companies that require employees to be vaccinated.