March 24, 2021 — President Joe Biden will announce the government will spend $81 billion to help schools get back to in-person learning — a step toward his stated goal of reopening schools within the first 100 days of his presidency, White House officials said during a Wednesday briefing.
“Today, at the Department of Education’s National Safe School Reopening Summit, President Biden will announce $81 billion in American Rescue Plan funds will be made available to all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico to support their efforts to safely return to in-person instruction as expeditiously as possible this spring and meet the needs of all students,” said Andy Slavitt, senior White House adviser for COVID-19 response.
The recent coronavirus relief bill that Biden signed into law earmarks $122 billion for K-12 schools. The $81 billion announced Wednesday will be available right away.
Slavitt also reported that 70% of Americans ages 65 and older have now received at least one vaccine dose — up from 8% at the beginning of February.
“In the 62 days since taking office, we’ve more than tripled vaccine output from 8.6 million doses to 27 million doses per week,” he said. “We intend to keep up this progress until all Americans are vaccinated.”
White House officials briefly touched on the most recent concern about AstraZeneca vaccine data, which federal regulators said Tuesday was “outdated information.”
“Right now, AstraZeneca is getting back with the Data and Safety Monitoring Board and will likely come out with an updated statement,” said Anthony Fauci, MD, a top COVID-19 official.
Slavitt added: “Our takeaway is the importance of transparency and trust. … I would urge us not to focus on the process of the last couple days, but instead to focus on what really matters, which is what happens when these applications for these candidates are submitted to the FDA.”
AstraZeneca has said it plans to submit data to the FDA next month in pursuit of an emergency use authorization for its vaccine.
On a positive note, Fauci outlined data published Tuesday in TheNew England Journal of Medicine highlighting how well COVID-19 vaccines work in the real world, which mirrors findings from clinical trials. One study, published Tuesday, found that just four out of 8,121 fully vaccinated employees at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas were infected with the virus.
Another study found that seven out of 14,990 workers at UC San Diego Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, produced positive COVID-19 tests after receiving a second dose of vaccines from either Pfizer or Moderna.
“Every day, we get closer and closer to that extraordinary degree of effectiveness, which we’re seeing at the community level,” Fauci said. “And at the end of the day, that’s what it is that’s going to end this pandemic in this country.”