California Educators Call for Aggressive Statewide Plan to Limit Transmission of COVID-19 Virus Over Next 100 Days
BURLINGAME – Eager to return to in-person teaching and learning, California’s teachers, nurses, counselors, and education support professionals sent a letter to Governor Newsom calling for an aggressive statewide plan to limit the transmission of COVID-19 over the next 100 days. Educators urged Gov. Newsom to engage in full partnership with national leaders on a coordinated, federally funded plan with clarity and common sense to address the COVID-19 pandemic to return to schools in person.
The letter calls for an aggressive plan focused on statewide safety measures to slow the spread, along with a more rapid and effective vaccine rollout. The letter also calls for an aggressive public health communications campaign to help get all of our communities rowing together. And finally, it calls for a plan that provides continuity and improvement of learning now and in the long term.
“One year ago, nobody imagined we would be in this devastating health crisis mourning the loss of more than 420,000 family members, friends and loved ones and feeling hopeless absent a cohesive plan deserving of our students and each and every American,” said CTA President E. Toby Boyd. “We are calling for an aggressive plan focused on statewide safety measures to slow the spread along with a more rapid and effective vaccine rollout for essential workers, for educators, and for parents and guardians who work in critical infrastructure industries like food and agriculture and who live in vulnerable communities.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report last week on new variants emerging in the United States that are even more highly transmissible. These new threats, on top of a surge that has disproportionately impacted communities of color and stressed our health care system, require immediate action to protect Californians.
“California needs to have an aggressive plan focused on statewide safety measures to slow the spread along with a more rapid and effective vaccine rollout for essential workers, for educators, and for parents/guardians who work in critical infrastructure industries like food and agriculture and who live in vulnerable communities,” said Boyd in the letter. “We cannot delay prioritizing the health and safety of our communities and need to take bold steps without taking any shortcuts toward the path of opening schools in person. To do otherwise will continue the ’yo-yo’ effect we warned of last summer and this fall – opening schools, only to then close them because we failed to have the necessary layered protections and asymptomatic testing in place.”
Working with epidemiologists and workplace safety medical experts, educators have said from the beginning: Low community transmission rates, a strong public health infrastructure, and layered prevention measures within schools that are effectively maintained, tracked, and enforced are the path forward. Those actions, combined with an effective vaccine rollout, are necessary to get our schools open for in-person teaching and learning. These are commonsense steps that are consistent with advice and findings of recent research from the CDC and the California Department of Public Health and are also reflected as necessary solutions in President Joe Biden’s COVID Relief package proposal.
“There are no shortcuts for stopping this surge and the new variants. The virus is in charge right now and it does not own a calendar. We cannot just pick an artificial calendar date and expect to flip a switch on reopening every school for in-person instruction,” said Boyd. “What we can do is move towards in-person opening in a deliberate way when it is safe because we have done the hard work to get there by limiting community spread and because we have distributed a vaccine. If opening schools for in-person instruction is more than just rhetoric and really a priority, hard decisions to substantially slow the spread of the virus need to be made.”
Planning for the healing and pandemic aftermath also must be prioritized.
“Finally, when we do return, make it worthwhile, and supersize supports to help the students who need it, the parents who deserve it, and the educators who bring it. During World War II we asked a generation to fight a war to save the country and they did. We also provided returning soldiers with education and family supports. We need to do the same for this generation of students. We cannot continue feeding racial inequities and expect to see improvements with a school system that is in the bottom quartile of state funding in this nation, while California’s economic output is the fifth highest in the world.”
Read the letter here as well as the other letters educators have sent the governor advocating for the safety of students and their families. For additional CTA information, visit www.cta.org/covid-19.
The 310,000-member California Teachers Association is affiliated with the 3-million-member National Education Association.