Secret CDC COVID Document Could Help Teachers Sue

Secret CDC COVID Document Could Help Teachers Sue; Return to Classroom Teaching is “Highest Risk” Among Several Plans

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Secret CDC COVID Document

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 13, 2020) -  Secret CDC plans for reopening schools in the fall could provide teachers - especially those over 65, and/or with a variety of medical conditions including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, etc. - with valuable legal ammunition to resist being forced to return to normal classroom teaching, says public interest law professor, who has been encouraging such law suits.

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The document, marked "For Internal Use Only," says that of the three major strategies for instruction in the fall, "full-sized in-person classes, activities and events" where "students are not spaced apart," would created the "highest risk" of infection, death, and disability from the COVID virus.

In stark contrast, "the lowest risk," according to the CDC, is for "faculty members and students to engage in virtual learning options, activities and events," the arrangement many teachers at highest risk would much prefer.  Simply having small classes with students kept six feet apart, which many schools are now planning, will still create a much higher risk, the CDC reports.

Bringing Law Suits Under The Americans With Disabilities Act

Armed with copies of this CDC report, teachers who are at heightened risk because of medical problems could file complaints or bring law suits under the Americans With Disabilities Act [ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12101] which requires employers to make "reasonable accommodations" for employees with disabilities such as diabetes, high blood pressure, compromised immune systems, etc. which have been classified as "disabilities."

One of the most frequently cited reasonable accommodation under these circumstances would be to permit faculty to teach either online, or from a separate room nearby with their image, words, and anything on the blackboard or projector displayed on a large-screen TV in the classroom where the students - who appear to be at much lower risk - would be seated.

Professor Banzhaf explains that he was able to get smoking banned in many situations by arguing that persons sensitive to tobacco smoke were "disabled people," and therefore entitled to reasonable accommodations, even though the risks associated with drifting tobacco smoke are far less than those from possible exposure to the coronavirus.

The General Duty Clause

Teachers who are not at heightened risk because of any disability, but are nevertheless reluctant to risk their lives by teaching daily in a classroom full of students - who may or may not strictly adhere to mask-wearing and other social-distancing rules -  may try to rely upon the Occupational Safety and Health [OSH] Act which has a "General Duty Clause" [Section 5(a)(1)].

This portion of the act requires workplaces to offer environments that are "free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees." Banzhaf reports that he used it frequently to protect employees from secondhand tobacco smoke - which presents much less danger than coronavirus present in airborne particles in a classroom.

Cloth Face Coverings, Hybrid Course Instruction including both in person and virtual options, Mandatory, Daily Health Self-checks, Mandatory Testing, Compressed Fall Semesters without breaks, Limiting Residence Hall Capacity, Modified Layouts in classrooms, hallways, and dining halls to promote social/physical distancing, Enhanced Cleaning and Disinfection, COVID-19 Testing and Treatment, Contact Tracing, and Notifications/Alerts, are some of the coping techniques for colleges and universities which are mentioned in the CDC document for colleges and universities.