The American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten sent a letter to Biden's new education secretary and the CDC saying that she has concerns about their new guidance for schools. The CDC reduced the suggested social distancing from six feet to three feet. The AFT doesn't seem to believe that this is good enough.
Weingarten's letter states that "...we are not convinced that the evidence supports changing physical distancing requirements at this time. Our concern is that the cited studies do not identify the baseline mitigation strategies needed to support 3 feet of physical distancing."
The CDC stated that the change in guidelines came after a study encompassing over half a million Massachusetts students was released. The study had allowed schools to choose between three feet and six feet of distancing.
"We didn't see any substantial difference in cases among students or staff in districts with 3 feet versus 6 feet, suggesting that we can open the schools safely at 3 feet, provided that some of the mitigation measures that were present here in Massachusetts are in place," said one of the study's co-authors.
Both the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics had previously recommended that students can be less than six feet apart. So where did the determination of six feet of distancing come from?
The Wall Street Journal reported that "Nobody knows for sure. Most agree the guideline derives from a belief that Covid is largely spread through respiratory droplets, like flu. Old studies suggest that larger respiratory droplets are unlikely to travel more than 6 feet, and therefore close contact with an infected person is the primary mode of exposure. This research was hardly conclusive, but by most accounts it formed the basis for the initial Covid recommendations."
Fox News' Tucker Carlson reported that "It turns out the research that formed the basis of that law came from a German hygenicist called Carl Flügge. It was Flügge who decided that six-foot separations were necessary to slow the spread of pathogens. The CDC went with Flügge's judgment. What the CDC didn't tell us was that Karl Flügge had been dead for nearly 100 years. His research on social distancing was published in the 19th century, before most Americans had electricity or indoor plumbing. So why is that research still guiding public health policy in this country in 2021? It's a good question, and experts don't seem to have a good answer."
Weingarten and the AFT, however, need some more info before they will allow children to return to school and teachers to go back to work. She writes that: "One thing the studies were clear on is the need for layered mitigation if there is a shift to reduce physical distancing. Now that we have had a chance to review the research, we conclude that any shift from 6 feet to 3 feet must be accompanied by, at a minimum, universal and correct masking; effective ventilation; thorough cleaning of buildings; regular COVID-19 testing of teachers, staff and students; effective contact tracing and quarantine/isolation protocols; and the availability of vaccines to all people in schools who are eligible.
"Weakening one layer of layered mitigation demands that the other layers must be strengthened. We strongly urge you, in any discussion of this shift, to forcefully insist on strict and strengthened adherence to the other mitigation strategies."
The CDC's determination just isn't going to do it for Weingarten, no matter how much the administration is currently pushing to get schools open in order to comply with a promise made to American voters.
She writes: "We ask that the Education Department, in conjunction with the CDC, release a national checklist outlining the enhanced mitigation strategies that must be in place if we move to 3 feet physical distancing, and provide details about how to ensure that 3 feet of physical distancing is implemented properly.
"We also request that the CDC conduct comparative studies on mitigation efforts in urban, densely populated schools that do not have up-to-date ventilation systems and have been systematically under-resourced for decades. This will help in planning for summer and the next school year."
Weingarten is not giving up the fight to turn the coronavirus crisis into a mean to facilitate those projects that the union wants to implement, even if it means keeping American kids out of school far past the one year mark of this madness.
The National Education Association, a big donor to the Biden campaign, issued their own set of demands to the incoming administration. They asked for funding not only for COVID mitigation strategies, but for a host of other pet projects.