Education

Teachers’ Union Issues Coronavirus Recommendations for Schools, Calls on Feds to Do More

By Arianna Prothero — February 04, 2020 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The head of the American Federation of Teachers is calling on the Trump Administration to provide educators and other groups of professionals who deal closely with the public more guidance on how to respond to the growing coronavirus threat.

In a press conference Tuesday, which also included representatives from unions for nurses and flight attendants as well as a medical expert, AFT President Randi Weingarten said educators and school nurses need more specific instructions on what they should do to prepare for an increase in coronavirus cases in the U.S.

Part of the problem is that there are gaps in the resources provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local state agencies, said Jaqueline Moline, the vice president of occupational medicine, epidemiology, and prevention at Northwell Health in New York.

“If we’re looking to the CDC for guidance, which we certainly should be ..., they’re often deferring to state agencies. And then if you go to the state, they refer you back to the CDC,” she said. “So, it’s an endless loop where you’re looking for concrete information that doesn’t seem to be there yet.”

The fact that the coronavirus shares many symptoms with the flu—and that it’s the height of flu season—complicates the situation for schools. But it also means that, most likely, a student with a fever and respiratory symptoms probably has the flu.

Moline recommends that if a child is running a fever at school to ask if they or a family member has recently been to China.

“If the answer is no, then in the United States right now they should be treated as ... you have the flu or you’ve got one of these bugs going around, because chances are, that’s what it is,” Moline said. “We need to make sure that we realize there have been 10,000 deaths from flu and 19 million cases of the flu so far this year here in the United States. That is what people in all likelihood will be presenting with, particularly if they have no travel history. So, we have to look at it in context.”

So far there have been 11 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., according to the CDC, with another 82 cases waiting for results. No one has died of coronavirus in the U.S. at this time.

Globally, there have been more than 20,630 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 426 deaths, the vast majority of which are in China, according to the World Health Organization.

If a school nurse suspects a student may have coronavirus, the school should contact state or local public health department to report the case, according to guidelines put together by the AFT.

Moline and Weingarten also recommended that principals encourage sick students and staff to stay home and that there should not be any repercussions for doing so.

Other recommendations for schools from the AFT include:


  • Evaluating ventilation systems to ensure they are delivering adequately fresh air to classrooms;
  • Isolating students with fever and respiratory symptoms as much as possible from their peers while they are at school until they can be picked up;
  • Coordinating with the local health department to develop a response should the coronavirus spread in their community;
  • Educating and providing students, staff, and parents with reminders—such as posters—on preventing the spread of virus including washing hands, not touching faces, and staying home when sick;
  • Instructing custodial and classroom staff to follow appropriate disinfection practices that focus on keeping high-touch areas such as doorknobs disinfected without overusing cleaners that could be bad for students with asthma.

The AFT has compiled additional recommendations for school nurses and custodians, which can be found here.

In the press conference, Weingarten said the lack of information on how to respond to the coronavirus is contributing to panic and the likelihood of profiling people of Chinese descent.

Weingarten emphasized that her core message to educators is this: “No panic, no profiling, and wash your hands.”

Related stories:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Gunman in Parkland School Massacre to Plead Guilty
The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school will plead guilty to their murders, his attorneys said.
4 min read
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Education California Requires Free Menstrual Products in Public Schools
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons, and other items.
1 min read
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Education Florida to Dock School District Salaries for Requiring Masks
Florida is set to dock salaries and withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates.
2 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP