(CNSNews.com) - "As the director of the CDC, it is my priority to get our children back to school for safe, in-person learning," Rochelle Walensky told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday.
That includes COVID vaccination for everyone 12 and older; and it requires "layered prevention strategies," which means face masks for all.
(The American Academy of Pediatrics also is recommending "a layered approach to make school safe for all students, teachers and staff...That includes a recommendation that everyone older than age 2 wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.)
The CDC and the rest of the Biden administration are pressing hard for the vaccination of everyone 12 and older. Studies are now underway on vaccinations in children as young as two.
Yet CDC data shows that children, from the start of the pandemic, have fared much better than adults. Since January 2020, a total of 335 children ages 17 and under have died of COVID-19, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In that same 18-month time period, a total of 49,725 children ages 0-17 have died from all causes. So COVID deaths account for 0.673 percent of all deaths among children under 17, based on death certificates submitted so far to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Walensky told the committee:
We continue to recommend that schools implement layered prevention strategies to protect those who are not fully vaccinated and encourage vaccination for those who are eligible. Masks continue to be a critical part of these layered prevention strategies.
Working together, school administrators and public health workers can carefully consider community transmission rates, local vaccine coverage and occurrence of outbreaks when deciding what strategies are needed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard in-person education.
In summary, the overwhelming majority of deaths from COVID-19 are now occurring in unvaccinated people. Vaccines are widely available across the country and this suffering and loss is simply and entirely preventable, nearly. For our entire nation to heal and move forward, we must do all of our part to get our country vaccinated.
Walensky told the committee that because COVID cases are rising again, hospitalizations are going up for every age bracket, including younger people. But younger, unvaccinated people "still get hospitalized at a less frequent rate" than elderly patients, she said.
"Over the last week, we have averaged 239 deaths per day, an increase of nearly 48 percent over the prior week." She said each death is "tragic," especially when most of the deaths could be prevented by vaccination.
Walensky said low-vaccination areas are contributing to the "rapid spread of the highly transmissible delta variant." She said the delta variant now represents 83 percent of sequenced cases, up from 50 percent in the week of July 3rd. (Medical sequencing involves DNA molecular studies.)
Walensky said vaccines are effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death from the delta variant.