In December 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic reached record numbers of cases, deaths, and hospitalizations. The dangers of the coronavirus had led to the closure of public schools in many states throughout 2020, and Americans weren't sure about when in-person instruction might return.
However, on Dec. 8, President-elect Joe Biden announced the reopening of schools as one of his administration's three key goals for his first 100 days. An edited version of two sections of his speech appeared in a TikTok video on Dec. 8, and purported to show Biden announcing that public schools would reopen in January 2021:
In the video, Biden laid out three key goals. One of those goals was to reopen schools:
Masking, vaccinations, opening schools. These are the three key goals for my first 100 days.
Mask up for 100 days once we take office. 100 days to make a difference. It’s not a political statement. It’s a patriotic act. It won’t be the end of our efforts.
However, the edited video was misleading. Biden did not announce that he planned to reopen in-person instruction for public schools in January 2021. In his full remarks, he said: "My team will work to see that a majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days." Biden's first 100 days were set to end in early May 2021.
The full remarks contained the context from the two moments edited together in the TikTok video.
First, Biden mentioned that funding from Congress would be key:
The third thing I’m going to ask in the 100 days, it should be a national priority to get our kids back into school and keep them in school. If Congress provides the funding we need to protect students, educators, and staff, if states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow, then my team will work to see that a majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days.
That’s right. We’ll look to have the most schools open that we can possibly in 100 days, if Congress provides the funding we need. It’s not a secret how to do it. Masking, vaccinations, opening schools. These are the three key goals for my first 100 days, but we’ll still have much to do in the year ahead and sadly much difficulty as well.
The second part of the TikTok video was actually from an earlier part of the speech. Here's that part of the speech in context:
And so as the new president, I’m going to speak directly to the American people and say what I’m saying now. We need your help. Wear a mask for just 100 days. It’s the easiest thing you can do to reduce COVID cases, hospitalizations, and death.
Help yourself, your family, and your community. Whatever your politics or point of view, mask up for 100 days once we take office. 100 days to make a difference. It’s not a political statement. It’s a patriotic act. It won’t be the end of our efforts, but it’s a necessary and easy beginning, an easy start.
The Associated Press confirmed that Biden's plan included working toward making sure that a majority of schools would reopen within his first 100 days:
Joe Biden pledged Tuesday to bring the coronavirus pandemic under enough control to open most of the nation’s schools during his first 100 days as president — going much further on the issue than he has in the past, even while warning that the U.S. is facing a “dark winter.”
The president-elect said that promise is dependent on Congress providing sufficient funding to protect returning students, teachers and campus staff. He made it during an event in Delaware to introduce a team of health experts set to help the new administration combat a virus that has already killed more than 285,000 Americans.
Biden did announce a plan to reopen public schools. However, it was false to assert that the plan was specifically targeting January 2021. Biden was set to be inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021, leaving only 11 days in the month to begin his administration. Further, the last two days of January 2021 fell on Saturday and Sunday, days that public schools aren't open.
Biden's full remarks can be viewed on C-SPAN's YouTube channel: