On Tuesday, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisor Diane Burgis urged the county to give teachers a higher priority in being able to get vaccinated if a school district has a plan to reopen–reclassify them as essential workers.
“I would like to elevate the teachers to a place where they can get vaccinated so we can open up schools,” stated Burgis. “What we are talking about is not only saving lives, but protecting the health of people.”
Burgis highlighted that while they want to save lives and protect people, they also want to get the economy going and by getting schools reopened, it will make a big difference.
Dr. Chris Farnitano highlighted they are currently trying to follow the CDC Guidelines and the State Guidance which is evolving and changing, but noted there is discussion on the role of teachers on being essential workers.
“We may see some changes,” stated Farnitano. “The early phase is focused on health care workers and those in long-term health facilities. Later it gets into all essential workers. So there may be a prioritization within that to elevate teachers up. That is something we will be looking at.”
Supervisor John Gioia applauded Bay Area Health Officers for taking the Governors Stay-At-Home order and applying them early noting they would reach 15% ICU capacity soon, so they might as well have started early. He encouraged people to wear masks and stay at home. (Contra Costa County Openings at a glance)
Gioia stated he appreciated Burgis bringing up the teacher issue and said as soon as it was safe schools should reopen. He asked if she would co-sponsor a resolution that would say teachers should be considered as essential workers—would get a vaccine after health workers so they could reopen schools.
Burgis agreed, as long as school districts had a plan in place to open up.
Gioia stated that the more counties that do this, it would provide more support for the State to move teachers higher up on the list.
“If we don’t prepare and get teachers vaccinated, when schools do reopen that there could be a delay with teachers not being vaccinated,” stated Gioia.
Burgis again reiterated she believed teachers were essential workers, but with a limited supply of the vaccine, she wanted those school districts with a plan to reopen be higher up on the list.
In a statement after the Tuesdays meeting, she confirmed she would sponsor the resolution.
“I think it’s really important for the public to understand what the county’s role is when it comes to schools being open for in-person learning. We provide technical assistance and feedback on safety plans, but opening for in-person learning is ultimately up to local school boards and the state. If prioritizing teachers for vaccines helps to facilitate that decision, I’d absolutely support that, and I’ll be sponsoring a resolution urging the California Department of Public Health to prioritize teachers as essential workers so we can get back to in-person instruction sooner,” stated Burgis.
The resolution could come back to the Board of Supervisors for a vote as soon as next week.