January 6, 2022
PHILADELPHIA—"I am deeply concerned by the new K12 guidance put forth by CHOP's Policy Lab as well as by the PDPH. Again, I want to be clear: this union wants schools to be open for in-person learning.
"We are encouraged that CHOP continues to recommend universal masking, regardless of vaccination status. Recent research shows that the use of a high quality (approved KF94, KN95, or N95) mask-- or at the very least, a double mask of combined surgical/cloth variety is absolutely essential; and in fact, PDPH recommends this approach. But the reality is that these resources are not provided to schools. Roughly 35% of schools have reported lack of mask supplies, and those that have masks are certainly not of the KF94, KN95, or N95 variety. And double masking is certainly not taking place or being recommended in any systemic way. As such, we are even more concerned by CHOP's 'mask to stay' guidance.
"Further, we are particularly concerned regarding the new recommendations regarding testing amidst an unprecedented COVID surge, with positivity rates approaching 40% in Philadelphia. For all practical purposes, the guidance permits the cessation of testing requirements for asymptomatic individuals as well as for individuals with mild symptoms. To recommend testing for mildly symptomatic individuals only if testing supplies are available is outrageous. The PDPH, just days ago, suggested that symptomatic individuals that cannot access a test should operate as if they are positive. But this CHOP guidance even further removes any modicum of a safety net that testing provides.
"Quite frankly, the recommendation to effectively end systematic testing feels like a very ill-advised effort to downplay COVID cases and sweep our concerns regarding a massive surge under the rug.
"Similarly, we are concerned by PDPH's quietly rolled out new guidance regarding school closure thresholds. Moving from a 3% positivity to a 10% positivity threshold for closure without any rationale is an arbitrary shift that again feels like a way to simply keep school buildings open no matter the cost to students and staff.
"The last several days have been entirely chaotic in our schools. With tomorrow already announced as a virtual day, we again call on the District to truly come to the table and work with the PFT and all stakeholders to effectively plan for what a safe opening of school buildings means. We have wasted nearly a week during which students, parents, and staff have been under an enormous amount of stress trying their best to navigate a program that simply makes no sense."