SAN ANTONIO – The president of the Texas State Teachers Association released a statement Friday following new guidance from President Donald Trump’s administration that could remove quarantine restrictions on educators who are potentially exposed to coronavirus.
A memorandum from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued Wednesday declares teachers to be “critical infrastructure workers,” which could potentially keep educators in classrooms even if they were potentially exposed to COVID-19.
“New Trump administration guidance that teachers can be sent into classrooms after being exposed to COVID-19 and without a quarantine period is dangerous to students, educators and their families,” said TSTA president Ovidia Molina. “The Texas State Teachers Association demands that Gov. Abbott reject these guidelines for classifying teachers as ‘critical infrastructure workers’ in Texas.”
Generally, the CDC has recommended that people who are potentially exposed to the virus quarantine from others for two weeks.
The guidance notes specifically that state governments are responsible for implementing and executing their own response within their community while the federal government plays a “supporting role.”
“Officials should use their own judgment in issuing implementation re-opening directives and guidance,” the memorandum says in part.
“President Trump is playing a potentially deadly game of politics with the lives of children and the dedicated professionals who teach them,” said Molina. “A quarantine period must be a non-negotiable requirement for any educator or student exposed to COVID-19 before they are allowed to enter a school campus to ensure safety for all.”
The list of critical infrastructure workers outlined in the memorandum is expansive and includes “professors, teachers, teacher aides, special education and special needs teachers, ESOL teachers, para-educators, apprenticeship supervisors, and specialists” among others.
Bus drivers and cafeteria workers are also considered critical infrastructure workers, according to the memorandum.
The guidelines from the Trump administration are in stark contrast to the most recent guidance issued by San Antonio’s Metropolitan Health District in regard to the opening of schools during the coronavirus pandemic.
Metro Health officials published a school safety indicator on their website as a resource for schools to determine whether or not in-person instruction is recommended.
A high-risk level, based on the indicator, recommends students learn virtually while a low-risk level recommendation would allow students in classrooms with proper CDC health and safety protocols.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten echoed Molina’s sentiments in regard to the memorandum stating “if the president really saw us as essential, he’d act like it.