The Texas Classroom Teachers Association has issued the following statement on Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to lift the state's mask mandate and allow businesses to operate at 100% capacity:
We know there are those who will welcome the end of the health and safety requirements that have accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic. But we caution that the price paid by those who attend and work in our public schools, and by their families, could be high.
Recent findings by the CDC that noted low transmission rates of COVID-19 in public schools have been touted to encourage in-person learning in Texas schools. But the CDC reports emphasized a fact that has been conveniently overlooked by many in our state: that transmission is low when health and safety protocols are in place and enforced.
“Significant secondary transmission of SARS-CoV-2 infection can and does occur in school settings when mitigation strategies are not implemented or are not followed.” (CDC report Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in K-12 schools, updated Feb. 12, 2021.)
Our members have reported to us that many districts were already failing to follow and enforce state guidance. It remains to be seen how districts will respond to the governor’s actions, but the complete absence of state guidance will undoubtedly cause more teachers and students to feel unsafe in the classroom.
“In the absence of widespread availability of vaccines, and given the state’s refusal to prioritize school employees for vaccination, the removal of statewide health protocols is premature and will undo the progress that we have been making in getting the virus under control,” said TCTA Executive Director Jeri Stone. “We call on the TEA commissioner and school districts across the state to continue to enforce best practice recommendations from health experts and the CDC to better ensure the health and safety of their students, teachers and communities.”