United Teachers of New Orleans statement on the Omicron variant and school plans

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January 9, 2022

The increasing spread of COVID-19 in New Orleans is worrying. Each day, the city is breaking the previous day’s record for COVID-19 cases, hospitalization rates have doubled, and over 30% of people in New Orleans who get a COVID-19 test are currently testing positive. The United Teachers of New Orleans applauds the efforts by schools and our district to keep students and staff safe by leading the country on vaccine mandates, making testing available despite the ongoing scarcity, maintaining the 10-day isolation period for COVID-19 positive individuals, and for continuing to require masking in schools. These measures are key to protecting students and staff and we urge NOLA Public Schools to enforce them and all schools to follow them.

We call on NOLA Public Schools and all New Orleans schools to continue these safety measures and expand on them by:
Requiring everyone in school buildings to be COVID tested at least weekly;
Offering bi-weekly testing for staff and students;
Providing masks, including N-95 masks, to students and staff;
Extend COVID PTO days that do not impact an employee's regular PTO balance to encourage sick individuals to stay home and self-isolate;
Ensure regular and thorough cleaning of schools by custodial staff and sufficient ventilation;
Set standards for returning to virtual instruction so that teachers and families can prepare.  We recommend a standard that if 15% of instructional staff or 15% of staff and students are not able to be in the school building, classes should be held virtually; and
Create COVID guidelines compliance report cards for each school so that our community and families are clear about how each school is doing on COVID safety.

In addition to these critical measures in school, we call on Mayor Cantrell to reimplement the mask mandate in New Orleans as we navigate the highest surge of COVID-19 cases to date.