Reopening schools fraught with risk as virus cases spike
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COVID-19 cases in Cincinnati and Hamilton County are spiking. But in less than four weeks, Cincinnati Public Schools are scheduled to reopen.
CPS teachers want to get back in the classroom. We miss our students. We know many families rely on our schools for nutrition and a nurturing environment while parents earn a living.
But as long as COVID-19 continues to spread, a “normal” school experience jeopardizes the health of students, teachers, their families and the entire community. That is particularly true in a district like CPS with a majority of Black students. A recent New York Times analysis shows that Black Americans are about three times as likely as white Americans to contract COVID-19, and twice as likely to die from it. Sending children, teachers and staff into classrooms every morning, and then back home every afternoon, where they can spread infection to their families, could be a recipe for a new deadly wave. And contrary to what some say on talk radio and Twitter, studies show that children, particularly those 10 and older, can spread the virus too.
In New York City alone, about 80 school district employees, including 30 teachers, have already died as a result of COVID-19. Avoiding death and serious illness among CPS employees, students and their families must remain our top priority.
Of particular concern for the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers is our members with the types of health conditions that makes them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, such as hypertension, diabetes, heart or lung disease, or compromised immune systems. Many veteran teachers have accumulated sick days to help them weather such a storm. But CPS has taken the position that those vulnerable teachers cannot use their sick days to avoid the risk of COVID-19 exposure. That’s just heartless, and something we will fight in court if necessary.