US Education Secretary to Make 3 Stops in Illinois, ‘Special Announcement'

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NOTE: A live stream of the events will appear in the player above beginning at 10:15 a.m.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is scheduled to make three stops in Illinois Tuesday as part of a "Return to School Road Trip," with a "special announcement" expected during one of the events.

Cardona will first visit Walter R. Sundling Junior High School in Palatine for what he and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker say will be a "special announcement," though further details on what it might be have not yet been released. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy will also be attendance.

A tour of the school is slated to begin just before 9 a.m. with the announcement made at 10:15 a.m.

Cardona will also tour a health center in Cicero administering COVID-19 vaccinations and Chicago State University, where he will host a roundtable discussion on "the future of predominantly Black institutions and equity in education." Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is also slated to attend the CSU visit.

The bus tour taking place this week aims to "highlight schools and communities that have safely welcomed students back to in-person learning," according to a release from the U.S. Department of Education. Other cities being visited this week include South Bend, Indiana; Toledo, Ohio; Saginaw, Lansing, Detroit and Canton in Michigan.

The visits come as Illinois' vaccine mandate for school workers begins. The deadline for health care workers, teachers and higher education students to receive the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine was Sunday. Second doses of the vaccine must be received by 30 days after the first dose, according to the state requirement.

As of Friday, more than 200 coronavirus outbreaks have been reported at schools across Illinois, with several involving more than a dozen cases at educational institutions, according to statewide data.

The latest figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health showed 206 outbreaks were active at Illinois schools as of Friday, including 26 in Cook County alone.

Still, Pritzker, Lightfoot and local health officials have repeatedly committed to keeping schools open.

Chicago's top doctor has said outbreaks in schools were expected, but not at a higher rate than what would be expected in the community.

"Please rest assured that the predictor for what happens with kids is what happens in the community," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Thursday. "So, we have seen time and time again here in Chicago across the US, around the world, that the biggest driver for what happens with with children's infections is not about whether they're in school, it's about what is happening with community spread and the outbreak in the larger community."

"There are cases, we will see some spread, don't get me wrong, in school settings in youth settings, but statistically, kids are most likely to get infected with COVID at home," she added.

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