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Kamala Harris talks schools reopening: 'Teachers should be a priority' for vaccinations

The vice president also stressed reopening K-8 schools five days a week as soon as possible.
/ Source: TODAY

Vice President Kamala Harris told TODAY Wednesday that teachers need to be at the front of the line for vaccinations in order to help reopen more schools across the country during the pandemic.

In her first live broadcast interview since taking office, Harris spoke with Savannah Guthrie about whether teachers should feel safe about returning to school if they are not vaccinated, in light of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying that vaccinations are not a prerequisite for teachers to return to in-person schooling.

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"Teachers should be a priority along with other frontline workers, and we're going to make them a priority," Harris said.

Harris noted that 22 states have prioritized teachers to receive vaccinations. The majority of states have put the older population and frontline healthcare workers and emergency responders at the top of the eligibility list for vaccination.

Harris also addressed the issue of getting more schools reopened across the country during the pandemic, expressing some frustration about the CDC's guidelines that tied the ability to reopen schools directly to the rate of infection in any given community.

If schools were to follow the CDC guidelines, 90% of schools would currently not be able to reopen under that metric.

"What the CDC, what they have recommended, are exactly that, recommendations, about how to reopen safely if they've been closed, how to stay open if they've been open," Harris said. "And so the recommendations include what again needs to happen around social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing. The point is that we all want our kids to get back to school as quickly as possible and as safely as possible."

Harris also reiterated a goal stated by President Joe Biden on Tuesday when it comes to getting schools back open, particularly for younger students.

"So our goal is that, as many K through 8 schools as possible will reopen within the first 100 days," she said. "Our goal is that it will be five days a week. So we have to work to achieve that goal.

"The issue here is not just about statistics, it's about our kids. It's about their parents. It's about the fact that every day, our kids are missing essential, critical days in their educational development. Each day in the life of a child is a very long time."

In addition to the pandemic, the other major situation early in the Biden administration was the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. The former president was acquitted in a Senate vote on Feb. 13 on charges of inciting the deadly riot by his supporters at the Capitol last month.

Republican leader Mitch McConnell had harsh words for Trump, saying that civil and criminal liability remains a possibility for the former president. Harris, a former attorney general of California, was asked if Trump should be criminally charged.

"You know, right now I'm focused on what we need to do to get relief to American families, and that is my highest priority," she said. "It is our administration's highest priority. It is our job. It is the job we were elected to do, and that's my focus.

"I haven't reviewed the case through the lens of being a prosecutor," she added. "I'm reviewing the case of COVID in America through the lens of being the vice president of America."