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Some Utah teachers to take sick leave Thursday to demand better COVID-19 protocols and get tested

Posted at 9:26 PM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-10 23:40:57-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A group of teachers is taking a stand and fighting for more safety protocols in the classroom as COVID-19 cases skyrocket in Utah.

The educators are organizing an event called a “test out.” Teachers who want to take part are encouraged to call in sick Thursday and use the day off to get tested for the virus.

“There are no testing requirements for teachers or students currently,” said Lindsay Plummer, a teacher in the Granite School District. “It also addresses what the government said -- that teachers need to be tested weekly.”

RELATED STORY: Utah's new COVID-19 restrictions are now in effect

The test out would work much like a sick out, but those involved believe it has a greater purpose. Organizers were inspired to act following remarks made by Gov. Gary Herbert on Sunday night.

“The push for our group was the governor’s address on Sunday,” Plummer said. “The goal of doing something like this is we want to push them to do more.”

The Utah Education Association is aware of the planned test out but is urging teachers to be patient.

“I really want to make sure our educators come together in a united way,” said Heidi Matthews, president of the UEA. “A widespread statewide testing protocol is in the works. We at the Utah Education Association have been in contact with the governor's office.”

The governor’s office says all teachers currently have universal access to PCR testing through Test Utah.

A statement adds, “The Utah Department of Health is also working to expand rapid asymptomatic testing to high school teachers in the state.”

But many teachers who are both physically and mentally exhausted say right now, they don’t feel safe. After months in the classroom, on the front lines of this pandemic, they are tired of waiting for leaders to be more aggressive.

“If we felt like we had another choice, we wouldn’t be doing this,” Plummer said.

The UEA is urging all secondary schools in high transmission areas to automatically make the transition to virtual learning.