Governor’s education advisor hits back at teacher COVID-19 safety study

SALT LAKE CITY — The online insurance company Insurify caused tension when it released a COVID-19 safety study claiming Utah’s teachers are the most at-risk of contracting the virus in the country.

But during a news conference on Thursday, Governor Gary Herbert’s education adviser Tami Pyfer hit back at several of the study’s criteria.

“Some of the things that they looked at (to determine COVID-19 safety) were … the strength of our teacher union. They looked at our teacher pay, our school funding,” Pyfer said.

Pyfer acknowledged that social distancing was a challenge for many campuses, though she believes several districts were making it work.

“There are districts that are having A-B days and having half the student population come on one day and half the population come on the other day. That is one of those mitigation efforts that, as we see cases rise at schools, they will have less students in the classroom,” Pyfer said.

She also agreed with the study’s findings that Utah has good medical care should a teacher need it.

When asked whether there is enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for teachers, a common complaint from educators across the state, Pyfer said the state had given districts what they needed.

But she also said the state is working to get them more and strongly urged districts to take advantage of opportunities.

“(The governor’s) office sent some PPE out to districts,” Pyfer said. “And then the state board of education also tried to pitch in where they could. We are trying to provide more opportunities for them to take advantage of PPE resources at the county level.”

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