WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement after President Trump announced new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines revoking the recommended 14-day quarantine for frontline workers who have been exposed to—and may be infected with—COVID-19. The AFT represents hundreds of thousands of essential employees covered by the CDC’s rule.
“The president is callously casting frontline workers aside in his desperation to deny reality and return to normalcy during a crisis of his own making. President Trump is not responsible for the virus, but he is responsible for the federal government’s failures to make the safety and health of our essential workers paramount. He claims workers are heroes in one breath, but then goes and puts them in harm’s way in the next.
“Hundreds of healthcare workers, emergency workers, transit workers and grocery workers have gotten gravely sick or died from COVID-19. The president’s actions will result in more sickness and death; his actions tell essential workers they are expendable, when employers should be under more, not less, of an obligation to protect them.
“These new rules mask the severe shortages we have of frontline staff and personal protective equipment. At the same time, the administration has refused to issue an emergency Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard to safeguard these workers. The president’s failure to secure PPE was bad enough—and this decision rubs salt into the wound.”
Under the new guidelines, frontline workers exposed to COVID-infected individuals can continue to work, revoking previous guidance that they should be isolated from others for a period of 14 days. The guidelines do not require or even advise that exposed workers be tested, and they fail to require employers to take steps to limit worker exposure to infected individuals.
They advise that exposed workers self-monitor, wear face coverings and keep their distance from others as work duties permit, but do not require or advise employers to install engineering controls, isolate workers exposed to COVID-19-infected individuals, ensure social distancing in the workplace or provide effective PPE.
The AFT represents hundreds of thousands of employees covered by the regulation, including judicial employees, food service workers, wastewater treatment plant workers, transport workers, power plant workers, custodial staff, correctional facilities and parole officers, social workers and child protection service workers, bus drivers, airport security workers, scientists in state laboratories, and workers processing unemployment insurance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid claims.