News from the coronavirus pandemic and the Omicron variant

The Chicago Teachers Union plans to call an emergency meeting to vote whether its teachers would switch strictly to virtual education amid an increase in Covid-19 cases, a union official says, putting in place a potential lockdown with the school district.

Public schools in Chicago, the third largest school district in the country, resumed in-person learning on Monday and maintained their safe conditions for in-person instruction.

The union meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, would include a survey of group delegates (elected union leaders for individual schools) to find out if they support a return to distance learning until the pandemic is better controlled.

The union will also send the same question electronically to its roughly 25,000 grassroots members on Tuesday, the official said. If grassroots members voted to return to distance learning, these teachers would notify their respective principals on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning that they would be ready to teach, but remotely.

At this point, it would be up to Chicago’s public schools to potentially lock teachers out of their remote classrooms, as the district has threatened to do under similar circumstances in the past.

At a virtual union town hall on Sunday, about 80% of the 8,000 members present said they did not want to return to work in person under the current conditions, according to the union official.

This could trigger a “mass electronic lockdown,” the official said.

Part of the unions’ reluctance to return is due to a recent increase in Covid-19 cases among students and in the community, as well as uncertainty over the current picture of the infection.

According to data released by Chicago Public Schools, 35,590 tests were performed by students and staff between December 26 and January 1, and 24,843 were declared invalid. Among the accepted tests, 18% tested positive for Covid-19.

In a statement to CNN, Chicago Public Schools wrote: “Over the holiday weekend, we learned from our suppliers, ThermoFisher and Color, that more than half of the 40,000 tests submitted failed. be validated. As we continue to seek answers, our focus is on increasing onsite testing opportunities for affected students and schools this week as part of our ongoing weekly testing. ”

“The CPS is aware of CTU’s calls for possible member actions, including refusing to report for work, which the CPS believes could put the health and safety of members of our community at risk. particularly of our students, at an increased risk “, we can read in the press release. . “In the face of evolving pandemic challenges, our plan is to double these proven COVID-19 mitigation strategies: vaccination, testing, contact tracing, universal masking; social distancing; strong hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette; monitored and high indoor air quality; properly cleaned and disinfected spaces; and let some staff and families know that sick people should stay at home, ”he continued.

Additionally, as the school district headed for winter break, it reported its highest weekly number of Covid-19 cases since the start of the school year. Citywide over the past two weeks, Chicago has reported its highest number of daily Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

“Live two-way online distance learning” is available to all students heading into their 40s.

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