Nearly 1 in 4 US teachers at greater risk of becoming seriously ill if infected with coronavirus

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About one in four teachers in the U.S. are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill if they get infected with the new coronavirus, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report. - Anna Jurkovska/Dreamstime/TNS

About one in four teachers in the U.S. are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill if they get infected with the new coronavirus, according to a report released Friday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The foundation, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on national health care issues, looked at a series of factors identified by the Centers of Disease Control which could indicate that a person could be “more likely than others to become severely ill,” when they are exposed to the virus.

They include several underlying health conditions — such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, moderate or severe asthma, having a body mass index of greater than 40, or having a compromised immune system due to, for example, treatment for cancer — as well as being age 65 and older.

The analysis found that about 1.47 million teachers and instructors in the country — nearly 24% of the entire workforce — have a condition that will put them at higher risk of serious illness from coronavirus.

According to the CDC, that means that “they may require hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or they may even die.”

The report comes as educators around the nation contemplate on the best solutions to regain some type of normalcy in the classroom, as many areas of the country experience record-breaking COVID-19 surges.

On Friday, United Teachers Los Angeles pushed back against pressure from the White House to reopen schools. They called on the Los Angeles Unified School District to “keep school campuses closed when the semester begins on Aug. 18” and demanded full-time remote learning.

“It is time to take a stand against Trump’s dangerous, anti-science agenda that puts the lives of our members, our students, and our families at risk,” union president Cecily Myart-Cruz said in a statement. “We all want to physically open schools and be back with our students, but lives hang in the balance. Safety has to be the priority. We need to get this right for our communities.”

Many teachers in Texas, a state that has seen day-after-day record numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, are getting increasingly angry with the “political battles of schools reopening,” The Texas Tribune reported Thursday.

In Austin, the state’s fourth-largest city, the teachers union is calling on state and local leaders to keep classes online for the first part of the fall semester.

“Please, we are begging you — do not open our schools on August 18,” said Ken Zarifis, the president of the district’s employees union, Education Austin, told the Austin American-Statesman.

Kaiser Family Foundation researchers set out to shed some light on the “considerable debate about when and how to reopen schools,” which have received “mixed guidance from federal officials.”

They used data from the 2018 National Health Interview Survey and included education professionals who are currently working, looking for work, or temporarily absent due to vacation, maternity or medical leave.


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