This is a confusing and scary time for many of us.
Since January, in response to the coronavirus, the AFT-AZ’s attention has been focused on how to ensure the health and safety of our families and communities, particularly those on the frontline of this crisis. Now, since the World Health Organization has labeled the coronavirus a global pandemic, our attention must be on everything: prevention and precaution, treatment, and the short and long-term economic impact of COVID-19 on families and communities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautions that the spread of the new coronavirus will get worse in the United States before it gets better. But we’ve seen that the comprehensive response to COVID-19 in both China and South Korea—where they have used widespread testing and quarantines—appears to have stemmed the spread of the virus and is a very good sign.
At 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 12th superintendents across the state participated in a teleconference with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, and Dr. Carla Christ, Director of Arizona Department of Health Service, providing guidance for schools regarding COVID-19. At that time school closures had not been recommended. As of this afternoon, Gov. Ducey and Superintendent Hoffman have announced the closure of all schools in the state of Arizona. AFT-AZ will continue to support decisions in regard to health and safety based on the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, Arizona Department of Education, and their legal counsel. We will keep you up to date regarding any developments that may impact our community or schools. For the latest updates on COVID-19 in Arizona, please visit www.azdhs.gov. Some recommendations on how to treat and deal with the long-term impacts of COVID-19 to protect people, prevent the spreading, and limit the ravages to our economy are:
- We are focused on the health and safety of frontline healthcare providers. This means fighting for proper safety equipment, including N95 masks. It also means pushing for high standards for workplace safety, even as the CDC attempts to roll back safety standards, potentially putting healthcare workers at risk.
- We are equally focused on the health and safety of children, families. and communities, and maintaining as much normalcy as possible. We know that social distancing, limiting who can be in schools beyond students and staff, and closing schools when necessary flattens the curve of exposure to the virus. But we also need to ensure that during school closures, distance and online learning is done in a positive, equitable and beneficial way—and that children who rely on schools for meals and a safe and welcoming environment have access to those supports.
- We are supporting efforts to reduce the economic impacts of the pandemic. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has proposed a multibillion-dollar package of policies and programs to fight the spread of COVID-19 and help ensure that our economy and working people and their families are protected. It includes emergency paid sick leave, free coronavirus testing, provisions to protect frontline healthcare workers, and food assistance for seniors and vulnerable children and families. This bill, combined with the initial $8.3 billion in emergency funding to fight the coronavirus, is exactly what’s needed.
- In addition to daily cleaning, we recommend District facilities be thoroughly disinfected and sanitized. This would include classrooms, offices, restrooms, playgrounds, bleachers and high-touch areas.
- District bus fleets should be disinfected.
- All out-of-state travel, field trips and District or school-sponsored community events should suspended until further notice.
- All athletics should suspended.
- Pre-bagged fruits, vegetables and salads should be available for students.