The Trump administration has designated teachers as essential workers in its effort to encourage schools to reopen for in-person instruction this fall, as some early-opening school districts have been hit with coronavirus outbreaks among students and staff.
PROVO, UT – AUGUST 13: A teacher prepares her classroom at Freedom Preparatory Academy as they begin … [+] to prepare to restart school after it was closed in March due to COVID-19 on August 13, 2020 in Provo, Utah. The school is planning to have students return on August 18 for five days a week instruction, but with reduced hours during the day. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
In adding teachers to its list of essential workers, which is only guidance and nonbinding, the government is advising teachers exposed to confirmed cases of Covid-19 but who are not exhibiting symptoms to remain at work and not quarantine.
Vice President Mike Pence informed governors of the administration’s decision on a phone call this week, according to CNN, which first reported the news.
Some states have reportedly already given this guidance to school districts, including Tennessee, which has seen a number of confirmed cases in districts that have already opened.
In Florida’s Martin County, 14 teachers are quarantining along with 292 students just a week after schools opened their doors because of an emergency order from Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s education commissioner.
President Trump throughout the summer has been adamant that schools should reopen for in-person instruction in the fall, falsely claiming that children don’t easily spread the virus.
Research is still being done on the effects the coronavirus has on children, but a study published in JAMA Pediatrics in July found that children carry as much or more of the infection in their noses and throats compared to adults, and a study on contact tracing in South Korea found that young people were most likely to spread Covid-19 in their households.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease official, has encouraged attempting in-person instruction with precautions. Florida’s largest teachers union sued DeSantis and the state’s education commissioner in July over its emergency declaration to reopen schools amid a spike in infections in the state.
In August, Trump introduced a new adviser to the White House’s coronavirus task force, Dr. Scott Atlas. Board-certified in diagnostic radiology, he is not an infectious disease expert, but his views on the pandemic, particularly around reopening schools, align much closer to Trump’s views than his other health experts Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx.
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