National teachers union says COVID-19 vaccine distribution needs to be aligned with reopening schools

Tracking The Vaccine

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — One of the largest teachers unions in the country has released what it calls a blueprint for safely reopening schools.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) says one of the most important steps states can take is aligning reopening schools with how COVID-19 vaccines are distributed. In a series of case studies by the AFT, the union says distribution should target disparities across districts.

That’s something that the Palmetto State Teachers Association (PSTA) has fought for in South Carolina.

“I don’t think the districts have the capacity to solve this issue because they’re not the ones receiving the vaccine,” said PSTA spokesperson Patrick Kelly. “They don’t have the public health infrastructure. We need state-level leadership and coordination here.”

In addition to coordinating with the vaccine effort, the AFT is also calling for one out of every five students and staff in a school to be tested each week, as well as defined quarantine policies. The union also suggests increasing ventilation and decreasing the number of people in classrooms.

The PSTA says personal protective equipment given to some districts has not been adequate.

“We know that a lot of the plexiglass shields that are used around the state are not terribly high quality,” said Kelly. “They’re not as tall as DHEC recommends. They’re falling apart. A lot of the face coverings that have been issued to teachers are not the depth and quality that was expected.”

The CDC said Wednesday that anyone fully vaccinated does not have to quarantine if exposed to someone with COVID-19.

The PSTA says that guidance is why vaccines are crucial in preventing the issue of not enough teachers to have some classes.

“We’re going to continue to have churn and inconsistency in our staffing, which means students may be able to walk in the door of the school, but they’re not going to get access to the full instructional experience we want them to have in the classroom,” Kelly said.

CBS News reports the CDC is expected to give its operational strategy and guidelines for safely reopening schools later this week.

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