AFT Resolution


WHEREAS, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the 2019 novel coronavirus, which it recently named COVID-19, a global public health emergency. Although incidence of COVID-19 to date has been limited in the continental United States to travelers returning from China with the exception of one known case of local transmission, cases have been reported in 24 other countries, and the number of deaths associated with COVID-19 worldwide has surpassed that of the 2002-03 SARS coronavirus epidemic; and

WHEREAS, it is believed that COVID-19 is most often spread from close (within about 6 feet) person-to-person contact, and is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. It is not known whether one can become infected with COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity and other features associated with COVID-19, and investigations are ongoing[1]; and

WHEREAS, the WHO, to aid in assessment of how the COVID-19 outbreak is evolving and what impact it can have, has requested all member states to engage in collaboration in sharing epidemiological data, clinical severity data, and the results of community studies and investigations. The WHO calls on all countries to avoid actions, like imposing extreme international travel restrictions that can increase fear and stigma with little public health benefit[2]; and

WHEREAS, the knowledge and capacity of the U.S. public and private healthcare systems to address infectious disease outbreaks were brought under the microscope with their ability to effectively manage the relatively few active cases of Ebola brought into the country in 2014, and to manage the screening process of those with potential exposure; and funding to improve infrastructure preparedness capacity remains woefully inadequate, and austerity budgets have affected universities and research institutions as well, weakening their ability to develop vaccines and preventive measures to address such emerging public health threats; nevertheless, preparations for full protective measures and monitoring should begin immediately; and

WHEREAS the Trump administration has deprioritized and effectively impaired our nation’s ability to prepare for and respond to global public health crises, leaving already under- resourced state, county and city health departments without a meaningful and appropriate epidemic response infrastructure in the federal government to protect people in our communities and our nation and to reduce the risk around the globe; and

WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers has disseminated materials to affiliate leaders to equip members with resources to ensure the safety of our members, patients, children, families and the communities we serve to enhance members’ knowledge and decrease fear; and

WHEREAS, the AFT is an affiliate of Public Services International, and PSI affiliates around the world are at the frontline of the response to outbreaks like COVID-19 and other public health emergencies; these affiliates’ members range from nurses and other healthcare professionals to public sector workers charged with maintaining clean water and sanitation:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will maintain and disseminate educational resources—for member use and for use as patient and community education materials—that outline the facts, detail the knowledge gaps, and link members to the most up-to-date materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, research experts and others; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT supports measures that meaningfully limit the spread of emerging disease but not those that foster profiling and discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT urge its locals and state federations to negotiate with the appropriate boards of education, university administrations, healthcare management officials, and other employer groups for policies on absences and sick leave that do not constitute a disincentive to isolate oneself when ill; the single most important measure for public health is self-isolation by those who are ill. Such policy changes must provide for paid sick days on a prorated basis for temporary, part-time and contingent employees, because many such employees lack even a single day of paid sick leave and must allow for the accumulation of sick leave; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue its role to publicly advocate for community safety and well-being, now in addressing COVID-19, and continue collaborative leadership involving local and federal government officials, hospital management and healthcare professionals themselves in the development of surveillance, education and policy at the local, state and federal levels; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will demand restoration of the federal budget cuts made since 2001 that have significantly weakened the U.S. public health infrastructure and healthcare system and reduced the CDC’s ability to respond adequately to the spread of infectious disease globally and to make preparations for responding to such threats domestically; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT urge the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to adopt an infectious disease standard to be prepared for future outbreaks of infectious disease; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue to advocate for long-term improvement in our overall healthcare infrastructure to reverse the shortfall in our capacity to address emerging national and transnational medical emergencies; this improvement must include adequate staffing and funding for the healthcare infrastructure, as well as for university and research institutions; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT stands prepared to work with Public Services International and its affiliates to address crucial needs in those affiliates’ healthcare systems and help reverse years of neglect and underdevelopment in healthcare infrastructure.

[1] Transmission of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). (Feb. 5, 2020). Retrieved Feb. 8, 2020, from

[2] Healio. (Feb. 5, 2020). “WHO calls for 'global solidarity' in controlling coronavirus outbreak.” Retrieved Feb. 9, 2020, from{5772265a-d924-4197-ac5a-492016e01348}/who-calls-for-global-solidarity-in-controlling-coronavirus-outbreak