Chicago schools will reopen as teachers and the city reach a deal over coronavirus safeguards

11/1/2022 7:49:00 AM

Chicago schools will reopen as teachers and the city reach a deal over coronavirus safeguards

https://str.sg/wMXNCHICAGO (NYTIMES) - Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's administration on Monday (Jan 10) announced a deal with the Chicago Teachers Union that would return students to classrooms Wednesday after a dispute over coronavirus safeguards cancelled a week of classes in the country's third-largest school district.

"No one is more frustrated than I am," Ms Lightfoot said after the deal was reached. She added:"I'm glad that we're hopefully putting this behind us and looking forward. But there does come a point when enough is enough."The deal, which city officials said included provisions for additional testing and metrics that would close schools with major virus outbreaks, was approved by the union's House of Delegates on Monday night and was expected to be voted on later in the week by rank-and-file teachers.

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sg/wMXN CHICAGO (NYTIMES) - Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's administration on Monday (Jan 10) announced a deal with the Chicago Teachers Union that would return students to classrooms Wednesday after a dispute over coronavirus safeguards cancelled a week of classes in the country's third-largest school district. "No one is more frustrated than I am," Ms Lightfoot said after the deal was reached. In December, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) cleared individual states to decide whether to make early emergency use of the drug known as Paxlovid. She added:"I'm glad that we're hopefully putting this behind us and looking forward. The plan"incentivises insurers to cover these costs upfront and ensures individuals do not need an order from their health care provider to access these tests for free," the agency said in a statement. But there does come a point when enough is enough. "EMA will assess the benefits and risks of Paxlovid under a reduced timeline, and could issue an opinion within weeks," the agency said in a statement." The deal, which city officials said included provisions for additional testing and metrics that would close schools with major virus outbreaks, was approved by the union's House of Delegates on Monday night and was expected to be voted on later in the week by rank-and-file teachers." China, where the coronavirus emerged toward the end of 2019, has pursued a zero-tolerance strategy and is taking the same approach to limit the pandemic's impact on the Feb 4-20 Olympics and subsequent Paralympics.

Teachers were expected to return to school buildings Tuesday, with students joining them the next day. The watchdog is weighing a similar application for a pill from Pfizer's US rival Merck.30) per test, if the test was purchased at an out-of-network site. Leaders of the union described the agreement as imperfect and were highly critical of Ms Lightfoot, but they said the deal was needed given the conditions teachers are facing in the pandemic. "This agreement is the only modicum of safety that is available for anyone that steps foot in the Chicago Public Schools, especially in the places in the city where testing is low and where vaccination rates are low," said Ms Stacy Davis Gates, union vice-president. The two drugs have been hailed as potentially groundbreaking in the fight against Covid-19 as studies show that they cut the risk of hospitalisation and death in high-risk patients. School leaders across the country have scrambled to adjust to the highly infectious Omicron variant, which has pushed the country's daily case totals to record levels and led to record hospitalisations. The at-home tests are typically sold in packs of two, and prices have ranged in cost from US$14 to US$34, which can be prohibitively expensive especially when tests are purchased in bulk. Most school districts have forged ahead with in-person instruction, as the Biden administration has urged, sometimes quarantining individual students or classrooms as outbreaks emerge. The Pfizer pill is a combination of a new molecule, PF-07321332, and HIV antiviral ritonavir, that are taken as separate tablets. China's strict rules to prevent a possible coronavirus outbreak linked to the Games will be tested by the emergence of the highly infectious Omicron variant.

Some large districts, including in Milwaukee and Cleveland, have moved class online. But the debate in Chicago proved uniquely bitter and unpredictable, with hundreds of thousands of children pulled out of class two days after winter break when teachers voted to stop reporting to their classrooms. In Britain, citizens can use a government website to order free rapid tests for home use. Rather than teach online, as the union proposed, the school district cancelled classes altogether. Chicago Public Schools leaders have insisted that virus precautions were in place and that pausing in-person instruction would unfairly burden parents and harm students' academic and social progress. Union members said that the schools were not safe, that more testing was needed and that classes should be temporarily moved online. Some local governments in the United States have invested more heavily in rapid testing to counter this latest wave of cases.

The Chicago area, like much of the country, is averaging far more new cases each day than at any previous point in the pandemic. School leaders across the country have scrambled to adjust to the highly infectious Omicron variant. PHOTO: REUTERS The Omicron variant is believed to cause less-severe illness than prior forms of the virus, with vaccinated people unlikely to face severe outcomes. The Biden administration is also working on other efforts to get tests to people regardless of their insurance status, including a plan to deliver 500 million free rapid tests to the homes of Americans who order them, starting later this month. Still, coronavirus hospitalisations in Illinois have exceeded their peak levels from last winter and continue to rise sharply. Relations between the Chicago Teachers Union and City Hall have been extraordinarily tense for a decade, stretching across the tenures of Ms Lightfoot and her predecessor Rahm Emanuel.

In 2019, months before the pandemic, teachers went on strike for 11 days and extracted concessions from Ms Lightfoot on pay, class sizes and support staff. Availability could at first hinder the rollout of the reimbursement policy, said Ms Lindsey Dawson, an associate director at the Kaiser Family Foundation who has researched the availability of rapid tests. A year ago, when schools first returned to in-person instruction, the city and union engaged in weeks of tense negotiations. Members of Ms Lightfoot's administration have defended the school system's efforts to make classrooms safe and have emphasised that children rarely face severe outcomes from Covid-19. But their efforts to reassure parents and teachers have sometimes faltered." Join. The district instituted an optional testing plan over winter break, but most of the 150,000 or so mail-in PCR tests given to students were never returned; of the ones that were, a majority produced invalid results.

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