Teachers Worry About Their Own Health in Addition to That of Students
It's the adults in the schools that are likely at greater risk of getting COVID-19.
Three teachers have died since the beginning of the school year as a result of COVID-19. The teachers were in Missouri, Mississippi, and South Carolina and all relatively healthy before their schools reopened for the fall term. The total number of infected teachers across the country is still unclear, but Mississippi has reported more than 600 cases since school started back up. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said: “If community spread is too high as it is in Missouri and Mississippi, if you don’t have the infrastructure of testing, and if you don’t have the safeguards that prevent the spread of viruses in the school, we believe that you cannot reopen in person." While positive tests are at the same low levels as they were in Asia and Europe when schools reopened, American teachers have warned those countries had measures in place with regards to free personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, hygiene, and social distancing to minimize the risk to adults. In school districts with older buildings, the problem becomes one of inadequate ventilation, lack of windows in classrooms, and very low availability of certified school nurses. Some school districts have not even made masks mandatory, putting teachers and staff who have health issues like previous cancer diagnoses, lung problems, and autoimmune disorders at even greater risk. The early phase of the pandemic claimed the lives of dozens of teachers. The New York City Department of Education alone lost 31 teachers among 75 employees whose deaths were blamed on the coronavirus.