/ YouTube Coronavirus update HHS Secretary Alex Azar 1594159845.jpg...
/ YouTube

Donald Trump’s health and human services secretary, Alex Azar, basically mocked the concerns of teachers about whether schools can reopen without risking the teachers’ health Tuesday, saying: “Health care workers don’t get infected because they take appropriate precautions. They engage in social distancing, wear facial covering […] This can work. You can do all of this, there’s no reason schools have to be in any way any different.”

More than 750 healthcare workers have likely died of COVID-19. That’s a far cry from “they don’t get infected because they take appropriate precautions.” Appropriate precautions are not always enough. Appropriate precautions are also not always possible outside hospital settings (if they’re even universally possible in hospital settings), and schools are definitely not that.

Teachers point out that they already pay for basic school supplies year after year, and that their schools often lack adequate soap for normal hand-washing needs. Do we really think school systems that haven’t provided enough pens, paper, and soap for years are now suddenly going to come up with enough masks and hand sanitizer while facing coronavirus-related budget crises and, in many cases, having laid off teachers prior to bringing students back for what are supposed to be less crowded, socially distanced classrooms?


On Monday afternoon, National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García pointed out a key gap in what the Trump administration is talking about when it talks about reopening schools:

The thing that’s especially infuriating is that the well-being of kids and the well-being of teachers are being pitted against each other because schools have been an afterthought in planning. Because the government—the administration in which Azar is the highest ranking health official—didn’t get on top of the pandemic early; because those months of total shutdown were basically wasted as far as testing capacity and planning for a safe reopening; because all those bars have opened up, driven by Azar’s boss’ push for the appearance of economic health over public health; and because Trump, his top officials, and the governors who follow his lead haven’t emphasized responsible behavior.

All those things that didn’t happen now come crashing down on the heads of teachers and kids and parents, added to state and local governments that aren’t listening to teachers. Huge bailouts to private companies like airlines, layoffs for teachers—and then the teachers who are left are supposed to somehow figure out how to do even more than they were already doing. Schools should have been able to reopen in some serious capacity. It’s just that the U.S. has spent the last four months making it impossible for that to happen and now is pretending that isn’t the situation.

Azar was right, though. There’s no reason to think schools will be different from health care—and that’s what’s scary.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


  1. Wow..so this is how bad it gets as the nails go in the coffin
    The bar is already on the floor you pathetic shlub.


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