The Trump administration has designated teachers as “critical infrastructure workers,” a non-binding classification that places them under specialized risk management strategies to help them work safely amid the pandemic.
Vice President Mike Pence confirmed the designation in an interview on Fox News Friday.
“When youre declared an essential worker, it means youre going to be prioritized for things like PPE and support,” Pence said, explaining that while there is no mandate associated with the classification, it is part of the Trump administrations effort to resume in-person instruction in schools.
“We want to get our kids back to school but we also want our teachers to know that were going to make the resources available so that their schools can be a safe environment,” he said in an appearance on Fox Business. “My wifes going to be back in the classroom teaching next week,” he added.
Under Department of Homeland Security guidance issued this week (pdf), teachers are now considered “critical infrastructure workers” and as such are subject to the same kinds of advisories as other so-called essential workers, including police officers and doctors.
Christopher C. Krebs, Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), said in a statement that the designation is not a federal directive or standard.
“The list can now be most useful in identifying the universe of essential workers that may require specialized risk management strategies to ensure that they can work safely. Furthermore, the list can be used to begin planning and preparing for the allocation of scarce resources used to protect essential workers against COVID-19,” he wrote.
President Donald Trump, in remarks on Aug. 12, said, “we believe many school districts can now reopen safely, provided they implement mitigation measures and health protocols to protect families, protect teachers, and to protect students.”
“We got to open up our schools and open up our businesses,” Trump said, adding that children “often have only mild symptoms, and medical complications are incredibly rare—very, very, very rare. Those that do face complications often have underlying medical conditions.”
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that children are about 20 times less likely than adults to be hospitalized for COVID-19, but when they do, about one in three end up in intensive care.
“Children are at risk for severe COVID-19. Public health authorities and clinicians should continue to track pediatric SARS-CoV-2 infections. Reinforcement of prevention efforts is essential in congregate settings that serve children, including childcare centers and schools,” the CDC noted.
One of the implications of the new classification of teachers as essential workers is that they can continue to work after a confirmed exposure to COVID-19 as long as they remain asymptomatic. Critics of the new designation for educators argue it could be used to pressure teachers to work in unsafe environments.
“The Trump administration will always try to change the rules to threaten, bully and coerce. No doubt this new guidance will be used as a pretext by Trump-supporting governors to force students and educators into unsafe buildings to serve the presidents political agenda,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told CNN.
Meanwhile, like Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has encouraged in-class instruction to resumRead More From Source