Aug 20, 2020 - Health

Trump administration declares teachers essential workers

Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security formally declared teachers essential workers in guidance released this week, continuing the Trump administration's push to reopen schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: Under the guidance, teachers are now considered “critical infrastructure workers,” like physicians and law enforcement officers, meaning they can return to the classroom even after possible exposure to a confirmed case of COVID-19 as long as they remain asymptomatic.

What they're saying: DHS noted its list of critical workers is "advisory in nature."

  • "It is not, nor should it be considered, a federal directive or standard. Additionally, this advisory list is not intended to be the exclusive list of critical infrastructure sectors, workers, and functions that should continue to work safely during the COVID-19 response across all jurisdictions."
  • "...critical infrastructure owners and operators are expected to use their own judgement on issues of the prioritization of business processes and workforce allocation to best ensure worker safety and the continuity of the essential goods and services they support."
  • "All decisions should appropriately balance public safety, the health and safety of the workforce, and the continued delivery of essential critical infrastructure services and functions."

The big picture: Hundreds of students, teachers and staff across the U.S. have been diagnosed with the coronavirus or sent home to quarantine following exposure as the fall term gets underway, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports.

  • Despite positive cases among students and faculty, the Trump administration and some state-level lawmakers are still pressing districts to reopen and maintain in-person classes.
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