Trump administration moves to exempt teachers from quarantine requirements
The Trump administration has issued new guidance designating teachers as “critical infrastructure workers,” potentially clearing the way to exempt them from quarantine requirements.
Health officials in South Carolina also designated teachers critical infrastructure workers, according to The Associated Press. The school board in Greene County in Eastern Tennessee, meanwhile, voted to give the designation to teachers in July. Several other Georgia and Tennessee districts have also announced they intend to bring asymptomatic teachers back to in-person instruction.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) has said his administration will accept the federal designation and allow individual districts to follow it.
“The decision is the district’s,” he said in a Tuesday news conference, according to the AP. “If they make that decision, we have given them guidance that they must follow if they choose that critical infrastructure designation.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) administration, meanwhile, said it is evaluating whether to incorporate the federal guidance into its own reopening plans.
“We have had some superintendents reach out to ask where the administration is on this topic,” Kemp spokesperson Candice Broce said. “We’re in the soliciting-input mode.”
“It essentially means if we are exposed and we know we might potentially be positive, we still have to come to school and we might at that point be carriers and spreaders,” Hillary Buckner, who teaches Spanish at Chuckey-Doak High School in Afton, Tenn., told the AP.
Buckner, secretary of the National Education Association’s county-level affiliate, said that the guidance put teachers in a position of potentially infecting students with the novel coronavirus. While data indicates children are less vulnerable to the virus than adults, public health officials have expressed concerns about them in turn passing it on to other adults.
AP data indicates that Georgia has the highest per capita spread of the virus. A handful of schools have already reopened in both states, only to close again after outbreaks. One such case involved a Georgia school where an image of a packed hallway went viral. Nine people tested positive at North Paulding High School soon after the picture circulated.