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Microsoft Urges Faster Washington School Reopening, Pledges Aid

Dina Bass
·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp. called for an accelerated reopening of elementary schools in Washington State and pledged protective equipment, cleaning supplies and technology to track Covid-19 tests to help the effort.

“While this week with high infection rates is clearly not the right moment to restart in-person learning, the science now tells us that it is the right time to accelerate the planning for kindergarten through fifth-grade classes to reopen in February, if the right safety measures are put in place,” Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith wrote Thursday in a blog post. The company, based in Redmond, Washington, also called for teachers to be prioritized in the state’s vaccination plans.

The comments from the software giant come a day after Governor Jay Inslee loosened the state’s guidelines for school reopening in a bid to to speed up the process. Inslee’s announcement Wednesday was condemned by the statewide teacher’s union, which said there wasn’t enough advanced communication on the changes. It also comes as hospitalizations linked to the virus have surged in the state over the past month.

Vaccine rollouts began this week in Washington, but the state has said it will take until mid- to late January to complete vaccination of frontline health workers and long-term care residents and staff, the first two priority groups.

Microsoft also plans to offer the schools free data tools to help them share information about Covid-19 testing in their districts.

Microsoft said it will also keep paying hourly workers affected by the pandemic and the near-shutdown of the company’s offices, as well as continuing financial support for Washington nonprofit organizations. So far, Microsoft said it has paid $110 million to its hourly workers and donated $98 million of assistance to Washington nonprofits, $67 million of that in cash.

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