In an effort to help schools that have opted to reopen for in-person instruction stay open, the Trump administration has released new guidance classifying teachers as "critical infrastructure workers," the Associated Press was among the first to report. Under the guidance, teachers who've been exposed to COVID-19 could skip quarantine and instead continue teaching if they have not exhibited any symptoms.
While the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends anyone who has been within six feet of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more self-quarantine at home, the agency makes exceptions for those deemed to be "critical infrastructure workers" like law enforcement employees and food and agriculture workers.
"To ensure continuity of operations of essential functions, CDC advises that critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community," the CDC states.
Initially, teachers were not considered to be "critical infrastructure workers," but according to the Associated Press, new guidance from President Donald Trump has changed that, opening the door for states and school districts to exempt teachers from quarantine requirements following COVID-`19 exposure.
While many states have opted to begin the school year online with remote learning, other states have begun welcoming students back into classrooms for in-person learning. According to CNN, more than 2,000 students, teachers and school staff members have already been quarantined in five states after at least 230 confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported in the early weeks of school. In Georgia, a Cherokee County high school has moved to temporarily suspend in-person instruction after 500 of its 1,800 in-person students were directed to self-quarantine, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Meanwhile, Gwinnett County, another Georgia school district, reported at least 263 employees were in quarantine as of Aug. 5 following a COVID-19 outbreak, according to CNN.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's office told the Associated Press the governor was considering whether or not to incorporate the new federal guidance on classifying teachers as "critical infrastructure workers." If he did, school districts could require teachers who were exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 case but who are not exhibiting symptoms to continue teaching in-person.
Some states and school districts, like South Carolina and at least one district in Tennessee have already classified teachers as "critical infrastructure workers." Guidance from South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control notes "school staff could be considered critical infrastructure workers and thus may be permitted to work if they follow ... precautions."
While there's still much that scientists and health care professionals are learning about the novel coronavirus, research has made it clear that asymptomatic people can carry and spread the virus to others, including children.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.