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Teachers move near the front of the line for vaccine

Meghan McCarty Carino Dec 21, 2020
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A teacher helps her first-grade student during in-person class at an elementary school in Stamford, Connecticut, in September. John Moore/Getty Images
Workplace Culture

Teachers move near the front of the line for vaccine

Meghan McCarty Carino Dec 21, 2020
Heard on:
A teacher helps her first-grade student during in-person class at an elementary school in Stamford, Connecticut, in September. John Moore/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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Health care workers and residents of nursing homes around the country have started to receive the very first doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

This week an advisory panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made recommendations about which frontline essential workers — those in jobs that put them at the highest risk — should be next.

On the short list: people who staff food and agriculture supply chains, firefighters, those in law enforcement and teachers. 

There have been questions about where educators should be on the list as they technically can work remotely, though distance learning has created other problems.

States will have the final say about when teachers get vaccinated. Utah for example, is already planning to vaccinate all educators in January. 

But teachers may not be considered essential frontline workers under some state guidelines, said labor economist Francine Blau at Cornell University.

“These categories are nuanced,” she said. “So we have to consider — is remote education a possibility? What are the downsides to remote education for the students themselves but also for their families?”

Blau co-authored a National Bureau of Economic Research paper about which workers should be considered frontline. She said teachers may not be as at risk as, say, meatpacking staff. They can work at home, as many have been for months. 

But shutting down in-person learning has brought other complications, said health policy professor Lisa Prosser at the University of Michigan.

“We are especially concerned about disruptions in in-person schooling that there may be very long-term effects, especially in these vulnerable communities,” she said.

Remote school has amplified existing economic disparities, said Prosser, and made it hard for many parents, especially women, to work.

But simply vaccinating teachers may not automatically make schools safe, said Harley Litzelman, a high school teacher in Oakland, California.

“If there’s uncontrolled spread in a community, there’s going to be something similar in schools,” he said.

While kids are at lower risk of severe disease, they have been found to spread the virus. Current vaccines have only been authorized for adults. Clinical trials to prove efficacy in children began in October, meaning it will likely be well into next year before many students can be immunized.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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