A powerful teachers’ union has reportedly pressured the Biden government to slow down the reopening of schools, it has been revealed – as the number of cases rises in Oregon, shutting down 15 counties.
The American Federation of Teachers sent emails to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before issuing guidelines on reopening schools for personal education, New York Post reported. White House officials were copied on them.
The union lobbied the CDC to soften language about returning students to the classroom, regardless of the spread of COVID in the community, and also to give teachers the right to work from home.
The emails were provided to the outlet by the conservative watchdog group Americans for Public Trust – which reportedly obtained them through requests for the Freedom of Information Act.
The revelation comes when Oregon Governor Kate Brown placed 15 counties in an “ extreme risk ” category on Friday after the number of cases rose 51% in just two weeks. Los Angeles Times reported. Oregon marks the fastest ascent in the nation.
US Senator Kamala Harris listens to President of the US Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, who spoke to the media in 2019
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies at a hearing of the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Students walk the corridors between classes at Benson High School on the first day of Portland Public School’s first hybrid class for middle and high schools on April 19, 2021
Monique Adams will lead her class at White Plains High School, Thursday, April 22, 2021, in White Plains, New York Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited the school Thursday as part of the ‘Help is Here’ tour. The school reopened to all students on April 12
Chunhuei Chi, director of Oregon State University’s Center for Global Health, told the Los Angeles Times that Brown’s placement of teachers ahead of seniors for vaccines in January to open schools was partly responsible for the increase.
Critics argue that Brown’s posting of teachers for seniors was a testament to her own loyalty to teacher unions.
In the AFT emails the New York Post received, the union even suggested a language for the CDC’s reopening guidelines published Feb. 12.
Kelly Trautner, the senior director for health issues for AFT, wrote an email on Feb. 1 thanking the CDC for “ openness to the suggestions ” made by union president Randi Weingarten, the New York Post reported.
“We were able to view a copy of the draft guidance document over the weekend and provide some initial feedback this morning to several employees on possible ways to strengthen the document,” Trautner wrote.
“We believe that our experiences on the ground can inform and enrich thinking about what is feasible and sensible in future guidance documents.”
That email was forwarded to CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky by Carole Johnson, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator, according to the outlet. Will McIntee, an associate director of public engagement at The White House, was included in many of the emails.
The New York Post noted that the AFT’s suggestions have been taken up “ almost literally ” by the CDC.
Trautner argued for the inclusion of a line noting that updates to the guidelines “may be necessary” if there are “high community transmission results of a new variant” of the coronavirus. That line appeared on page 22 of the final CDC guideline.
The AFT also lobbied to give teachers the right to work from home if they or someone they live with ‘have documented high-risk or increased-risk conditions for COVID-19, the New York Post reported. That was also included in the final design by the CDC.
“Today the CDC met the pandemic fear with facts and evidence,” the union said in a Feb. 12 press release when the new guidelines were issued.
A child holds a ‘zoom sux’ sign at an event to support the reopening of public schools in NYC on Saturday
Protesters angry about lockdown measures gather in front of Governor Kate Brown’s residence, Mahonia Hall, on Nov. 21, 2020 in Salem, Oregon
Students get off the bus at Roseway Heights Middle School on day one of personal hybrid learning
AFT spokeswoman Oriana Korin defended her role in advocating for her teachers in a statement to the New York Post, noting that the union was also working closely with the Trump administration.
“The AFT represents 1.7 million educators, health professionals and government employees who have served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 14 months,” she said.
“So, of course, we’ve been in regular contact with the agencies that create policies that affect their work and lives, including the CDC.”
Jason McDonald, a Walensky spokesman, told the outlet that the CDC has “ traditionally been in contact with organizations and groups affected by the agency’s guidelines and recommendations. ”
“We do this to ensure that our recommendations are actionable and that they adequately address the safety and wellbeing of individuals that the guidance should protect,” he said.
“These informative and helpful interactions often result in helpful feedback that we consider in our latest revisions to ensure clarity and usability.”
McDonald noted that other groups that have received advance copies of the guidelines include the National Education Association, the National Association of School Nurses, and the National Association of State Boards of Education.
Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon attends Sitton Elementary School in North Portland, Oregon on March 5, 2020
The revelation comes when Oregon Governor Kate Brown placed 15 counties in an “ extreme risk ” category on Friday after the number of cases rose 51% in just two weeks.
In Oregon, officials are concerned that the situation could change quickly after cases soar, the Los Angeles Times reported. Brown has closed indoor restaurants and gyms in 15 counties.
A previously healthy woman in her 30s was infected with COVID-19 by her child and was admitted to a hospital in Portland this week.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the Oregon state epidemiologist, said there is “a decrease in the way seniors are affected,” the outlet reported.
“But we’ve also seen an increase in the youngest adults, in the 18-34 age group,” he said.
Dr. Katie Sharff, an infectious disease specialist at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, said the elderly are staying healthy in the new wave, indicating the vaccines have been effective.
“Unfortunately, there is a fraction of the population who did not have access to the vaccine or chose not to get vaccinated, and that is what we see in our hospitals,” she said.