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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The youngest learners in St. Paul Public Schools are headed back to the classroom for the first time since March. Pre-K through 2nd grade can go back today, while grades 3-5 return Feb 16.

Why it matters: With distance learning, kids in Minnesota and beyond are falling behind — and missing out on other essential services and support schools provide.

The big picture: Most districts across the state are resuming in-person learning for elementary students in some form.

  • Gov. Tim Walz announced in December that elementary schools could start reopening in January.
  • High schoolers will remain remote for now.

Between the lines: The option to return to the classroom might not help all students equally.

  • Just 50% of Asian students and 63% of American Indian students chose to resume in-person learning in St. Paul, compared with 71% of white students, per St. Paul Public Schools.
  • Some worry the discrepancy could lead to even worse learning losses among students of color.

What they're saying: State leaders and many health experts say the benefits of reopening outweigh transmission risk.

  • "We've shown time and time again that schools can be operated safely with basic safety precautions," former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden told Axios' Re:Cap podcast.
  • But local teachers' unions oppose the plan: 93% of St. Paul Federation of Educators members have "no confidence" in the district's safety procedures, per the Pioneer Press.

What to watch: More disruptions could occur, especially if cases rise again.

  • Bloomington schools paused in-person instruction last week following an outbreak among bus drivers.

What's next: Minneapolis Public Schools starts phasing students back next Monday.

This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

Go deeper

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.

2 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Children "very likely" to get COVID vaccine at start of 2022

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Children under age 12 will "very likely" be able to get vaccinated for coronavirus at the "earliest the end of the year, and very likely the first quarter of 2022," NIAID Director Anthony Fauci told "Meet the Press" Sunday.

Why it matters: Children generally aren't at risk of serious coronavirus infections, but vaccinating them will be key to protecting the adults around them and, eventually, reaching herd immunity, writes Axios' Caitlin Owens.

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