Reports of COVID at schools serving district’s most medically vulnerable students grow, as double digit COVID rates rise in Black and Brown Chicago neighborhoods.

  • 4:00 p.m. TODAY: Press conference with CTU nurses, allied health professionals, City Hall, 121 N LaSalle. Nurses will deliver a letter signed by over 150 CPS health professionals to the mayor, 121 N. LaSalle. Reporters viewing remotely via CTU Facebook page should text questions to 312-446-4939.
  • 9:00 a.m., Friday, Jan. 15: Car caravan to end the lock-outs. Assemble Union Park, Ashland and Warren Blvd. Depart at 10:00 a.m. B-roll and interview opportunities.

CHICAGO—Since January 4, when Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s hand-picked school board began forcing pre-K and special education teachers back into unsafe buildings, COVID has surfaced in schools that serve the District’s most medically challenged students. COVID has now been reported since January 4 at South Side Occupational, Beard, and Vaughn Occupational High School, which was the first school to report a COVID case at the beginning of the pandemic. At Southside Occupational, which also serves acutely vulnerable special needs students, rank and file members are reporting at least two people — a staff member and a student — have tested positive for COVID. The COVID cases at Beard Elementary, which provides both Pre-k and special needs programs for children with autism and acute medical needs, are especially troubling, with at least 10 workers in COVID quarantine.

The mayor’s dangerous reopening scheme is not working, charge CPS nurses, even as a growing body of science shows that schools can be potent vectors for COVID transmission to teachers and school staff. At 4:00 p.m. TODAY, CPS nurses will be joined by fellow nurses from area hospitals, the Illinois Nurses Association, and National Nurses United — the nation’s two largest unions of nurses — in front of City Hall at 121 N. LaSalle, to talk about the serious health risks to students and staff under CPS’ deficient reopening ‘plan’.

After their socially distanced press conference, nurses will then attempt to deliver a letter signed by over 150 CPS health professionals calling on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to delay reopening — or needlessly risk lives.

A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that schools can be potent sources of COVID transmission. A new study from Montreal has found that it was “children who passed the virus onto adults when schools reopened in the fall, feeding the alarming spread seen in Montreal during the pandemic’s second wave.” A new study from Switzerland shows that the country’s decision to close schools was one of the nation’s most effective measures in reducing COVID spread. And in states that include New York and Texas, data is showing that teachers and staff where school buildings are open have higher COVID infection rates than their surrounding communities.

CPS has locked out CTU teachers and support staff from their students’ classrooms for asserting their right to a safe workplace by continuing to teach remotely rather than risking their health in unsafe school buildings. Those workers will stage a car caravan to end the lockout on Friday. CTU members will gather at Union Park at Ashland and Warren Blvd. at 9:00 a.m. Friday, and depart at 10:00 a.m. Reporters: this action will include interview and b-roll opportunities.

The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.