Because in 2022, workplace safety includes protection from infection.
Headlines this past week were inundated with those regarding the Democratic Party’s fear of schools going back to remote instruction. While they had previously promised that schools would remain open following their election, their fear of the contrary is largely illegitimate. Instead of centering their fears on promises which were made before the current Covid surge, the party should revert back to putting science and people’s safety first. The facts have written themselves out. Teachers’ unions have made their stance clear and in favor of remote instruction. Their voice is as important as anybody else’s. If parents want to undermine their children’s safety by sending them to school, that’s their prerogative. But ensuring the teachers’ workplace is safe is contractually mandated, and threatening it in any way is ridiculous especially when there is an alternative.
Many have asserted that we must treat times under coronavirus as the new normal. This would include having in-person classes during this ongoing pandemic. But I propose that this permanent fix and arrangement can only be made when we have taken permanent precautions against the virus as well. Currently, this is not the case. Many states such as Texas are requiring in-person classes in public schools and universities such as Texas A&M without mandating masks or vaccines. Vaccine and mask mandates are the permanent solution which can lead to us having in person classes safely and with no fear of returning to remote instruction. The surge in COVID cases that the beginning of 2022 has seen, came with a new variant that truly proliferated during a vacation period.
According to Dr. Ashish Jha, the Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, mutations almost exclusively occur within the unvaccinated. This is primarily because of the long duration that the virus stays in an unvaccinated person when they are infected compared to in a vaccinated person. To stop these mutations, the best course of action would be to reach a close to a 100% vaccination rate, with a vaccine that is 95% effective with the most current variant. That is the permanent solution that can stop mutations which drive these new infection case surges during every break. Prematurely going back to school to put our youngest generations at risk of infection, and subsequently being subject to long COVID is not the solution. Anti-gun control and anti-vaccine parents have long believed that ignoring life-threatening occurrences such as mass shootings and pandemics will just make them disappear. But in both instances, it has been made abundantly clear that ignorance leads to these problems becoming more detrimental to humans than they have to be.
The best solution is always the one that benefits the most people and the one that keeps the most people out of harm’s way. During a pandemic, this entails a measure supported by teachers to return to remote instruction. The Chicago Teachers Union has in fact held its ground as it demands returning to virtual classes. But because the city refuses to address the teachers’ concerns, ongoing strikes have led to delays in Chicago school openings.
Besides the quintessential conservative arguments against implementing COVID safety measures, there is one other argument that holds more water. Many working parents are being forced to return to work regardless of infection hazard, which leaves their children without supervision if they have no school to physically attend. But during a pandemic, there are better ways for the Democratic Party to address these qualms than putting teachers in dangerous conditions. Namely, passing the Build Back Better act which mandates practices that will lower childcare costs in the long term.
The permanent solution must not include a permanent disregard for people’s safety. Our long-term strategy for dealing with crises like the coronavirus pandemic must include temporary mandates that reduce mutation and contagion rates.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.