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story.lead_photo.caption Spencer Jensen, music teacher at the Legacy Preparatory Academy receives the COVID-19 vaccine at the Davis County Legacy Center Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Farmington, Utah. Utah began vaccinating teachers and school staff across the state. They are aiming to have all teachers and school staff vaccinated by the end of February. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

State leaders around the U.S. are increasingly pushing for schools to reopen this winter — pressuring them, even — as teachers begin to gain access to the vaccine against the raging pandemic.

Ohio’s governor offered to give vaccinations to teachers at the start of February, provided their school districts agree to resume at least some in-person instruction by March 1. In Arizona, where teachers began receiving shots this week, the governor warned schools that he expects students back in the classroom despite objections from top education officials and the highest COVID-19 diagnosis rate in the nation over the past week.

“We will not be funding empty seats or allowing schools to remain in a perpetual state of closure,” Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said. “Children still need to learn, even in a pandemic.”

Leaders of Arizona’s major hospitals disagreed with the governor’s position, noting at a news conference Wednesday that the state is teetering on the brink of having to ration life-saving care.

“We understand that learning and bringing our children together is very important,” said Dr. Michael White, of Valleywise Health. “But at this time with uncontrolled spread of the virus, we need to do things that we know will reduce the chance that the virus will spread and that is not gathering with people we don’t live with.”

The U.S. recorded an all-time, one-day high of 4,327 deaths Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The nation’s overall death toll from COVID-19 has topped 380,000, closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in World War II. Confirmed infections have reached approximately 23 million.

President-elect Joe Biden initially pledged to reopen a majority of the nation’s schools in his first 100 days but recently revised the goal to most of the country’s K-8 schools. He has said teachers should be eligible for vaccinations as soon as possible after those who are at highest risk.

Some states aren’t waiting, but the process can be scattershot.

Meika Mark, a ninth-grade English teacher in Orange County, New York, was vaccinated Tuesday at a hospital, using a link a friend texted her.

“It’s just word of mouth: ‘Here’s a link and hopefully you get a slot,’” said Mark, who contracted the virus in March and spent the rest of the school year teaching remotely. “I know of a woman who had her husband sit in front of a computer literally all day and just click the refresh button until an appointment came up.”

Mark, 34, is now doing some in-person teaching and is grateful for the added layer of protection.

“I told my students before that every day is one day closer to normalcy,” she said. “I think if we just remind ourselves of that, it just helps to pause and live in the moment for a minute.”

High school band director Michael Crookston was among the first teachers to get a vaccination in Utah, which is among the earliest states to give priority to educators. Crookston has been in the classroom since the new school year began, despite having diabetes, which puts him at greater risk from the coronavirus.

“It’s been a thing I’ve been looking forward to, a little bit like Christmas,” said Crookston, who teaches at Davis High School, north of Salt Lake City, where he used a parent’s donation to buy 12 air filters for his band room, as well as face masks and covers on students’ instruments.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has said he wants to vaccinate all teachers by the end of February.

Salt Lake City has been hit hard by the virus and was the only district in Utah to stay all-remote this school year. That has angered some GOP leaders, who have threatened to deny the city’s teachers the $1,500 bonuses promised to the state’s educators.

An estimated 10.3 million Americans have received their first shot of the vaccine, or about 3 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is an increase of about 1 million from the day before, indicating the vaccination drive is picking up speed after a slow start.

However, the U.S. is still well short of the hundreds of millions who experts said will need to be inoculated to vanquish the outbreak.

A report released Wednesday by the CDC adds to the evidence suggesting children aren’t the main drivers of community transmission. It found increases in reported cases among adults were not preceded by increases among children and teens. Young adults, it appears, may contribute more to the spread than children do.

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