National union OKs strike if teachers feel unsafe

Concerns and uncertainty have teachers worried, but research suggests swift shutdown could have schools ready for kids.

The American Federation of Teachers has told its affiliates that a work stoppage will be an authorized “last resort” if concerns about safety during the pandemic aren’t addressed by school districts in the coming weeks before the new school year is to begin.

The union’s president told state and municipal government publication Route Fifty that the federal and state governments need to ensure schools have adequate funding and safety plans if they want teachers to risk their lives for in-person learning.

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“Let’s be clear: Just as we have done with our health-care workers, we will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators,” Randi Weingarten said.

One obstacle: there is much we don’t know about COVID-19. In particular, how it impacts kids and to what extent they can spread it without even knowing they are infected. Such “asymptomatic” cases are found with adults as well, and researchers are trying to understand why.

What is known are some basics of virus protection, such as wearing a mask and social distancing to prevent transmission. University of Michigan researchers found in a new study that the more intense and strict a lockdown – such as mandating stay-at-home orders – the quicker the transmission and deaths are reduced.

A recent survey of experts by MLive found that an immediate state-ordered partial shutdown could lower the transmission rate enough for safely opening schools in the fall, and continued adherence to best practices could ensure they stay open.

The current 7-day spread of new cases found an average of 8.43 per day according to July 29 data in Kalamazoo County. It was an average 3.86 per day according to the 7-day spread on May 29, as state stay-at-home orders began having an effect. Those orders have since been lifted or relaxed.

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