White House Declares Teachers “Essential Workers”
The White House has formally declared teachers "critical infrastructure workers" during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vice President Mike Pence said the declaration will prioritize educators for things like PPE. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told CNN the declaration could be used “to force students and educators into unsafe buildings to serve the president's political agenda."
The designation is only a guidance, but a potentially important one. As essential workers, teachers who are exposed to COVID-19 are advised to return to work as long as they remain asymptomatic. According to Forbes, some states like Tennessee have already advised that asymptomatic teachers exposed to the virus not isolate.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation report found that 1 in 4 teachers in the U.S. — nearly 1.5 million educators — have risk factors for serious COVID-19 complications.