COLUMBIA, MO: Yesterday new guidance was given by the Trump administration declaring teachers to be “critical infrastructure workers.” The result of listing teachers alongside nurses and police officers is that they could be exempt from quarantine recommendations outlined by the CDC and a district could require them to remain in the classroom even if they have been exposed to the virus.
“The CDC recommends that ‘Potentially exposed employees that do not have symptoms should remain at home or in a comparable setting and practice social distancing for 14 days,” says Kyle Farmer, Senior Staff Attorney for the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA). “That is their number one recommendation. All things being equal, those employees should quarantine for 14 days.”
Farmer notes that when using the phrase “critical infrastructure employees,” the CDC is referring to guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency. That guidance is explicitly advisory in nature and not a federal directive or standard.
Farmer states that, “The CDC’s August 1, 2020, guidance on preparing for a safe return to school discusses this very issue. While providing guidance for how to respond to a student or staff member testing positive, the guidance says, ‘Students, teachers and staff who test positive or had close contact of the individual who tested positive should be provided with guidance for when it is safe to discontinue self-isolation or end quarantine.’ That sentence clearly indicates that staff in close contact with individuals that test positive should quarantine regardless of symptoms.”
“It is irresponsible to expect teachers to remain in a classroom after being exposed to COVID-19 and potentially risk infecting colleagues, parents family members and students,” says Farmer.
MSTA advocates for and empowers public educators so they can teach. The grassroots organization has more than 47,000 members across the state. The association is headquartered in Columbia, Mo., with regional offices across the state. MSTA has no national affiliation.