During a speech given by President Joe Biden on Wednesday regarding COVID-19 response and vaccination programs, Biden slammed states that have banned the requirement of masks in school, announcing that government action will be taken against these states and their governors.
"Unfortunately, as you seen throughout this pandemic, some politicians are trying to turn public safety measures, that is children wearing masks in school, into political disputes for their own political gain. Some are even trying to take power away from local educators by banning masks in school," said Biden. "They're setting a dangerous tone."
"I've said before, this isn't about politics. It's about keeping our children safe. It's about taking on the virus together, united. I made it clear that I'll stand with those who are trying to do the right thing," Biden continued.
He said that he called superintendents of schools in Florida and Arizona this week, two states that have banned the mandating of masks in schools, "to thank them for doing the right thing and requiring masks in their schools."
"One of them said, 'We teach science. So we follow the science.' The other said they have a guiding principle 'students first.' I couldn't agree with more than I couldn't agree more with what they both said," Biden said.
Biden announced that he is directing the Secretary of Education "to take additional steps to protect our children."
"This includes using all of his oversights, authorities, and legal action, if appropriate, against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators," said Biden.
"I've said as I said before, if you aren't going to fight COVID-19 at least get out of the way of everyone else who's trying," he added.
Biden said that "we're not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children," adding that if a governor blocks the pay of a teacher that mandates masks, that funds from the American Rescue Plan can be used to cover their pay.
"But as we head into the school year, remember this. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, says masks are critical, especially for those who are not yet vaccinated, like our children under the age of 12. So let's put politics aside. Let's follow the educators and the scientist who know a lot more about how to teach our children and keep them safe than any politician," Biden said.
Biden reminded the public that while vaccines are "the best defense… masks are extremely helpful as well," urging children who aren't able to get the vaccine yet to mask up during the upcoming school year.
Biden did not address the ongoing situation in Afghanistan and did not take questions, leaving quickly after the speech.