Gov. Kevin Stitt did the right thing when he gave school teachers higher priority for COVID-19 vaccinations.
We have been relentless in our criticisms of the way Stitt has handled pandemic issues in recent months. We stand by all those comments, especially the continuing need for a statewide mask mandate.
But in moving teachers ahead in the vaccination line, the governor was undeniably right.
Previously, the state’s priority list for COVID-19 inoculations had teachers in the third of four groups lined up for shots. That put nearly 900,000 people and a needless delay between teachers and immunity.
Prison inmates were among those who would have gotten a chance at the vaccine ahead of teachers under the previous prioritization. The state has a moral obligation to vaccinate inmates, but that’s obviously bad optics.
Too many school districts (encouraged by Stitt) have been reckless in the way they have reopened traditional classrooms.
We believe students learn better in classroom settings, but they also become a potential vector for the spread of a deadly disease if they are brought into classrooms in unsafe circumstances. That increases the risk of community spread of COVID-19, especially to relatives and teachers.
It’s dangerous to open schools too soon, and it’s immoral to push teachers to come back to the classroom and not give them a high priority to the only proven safe means of immunity.
On this issue, we agree with state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who said, “Teachers are the heart and soul of our school community, and we cannot have school without them.
“Allowing teachers to be among the top priority to get the COVID-19 vaccine is a tremendous move toward protecting the health of our hardworking teachers.”
In addition to moving teachers up in priority for the vaccine, the state is offering schools access to testing to provide frequent monitoring, another important safeguard.
It will be a long time before everyone in the state can get a vaccination.
That means the well-rehearsed pandemic hygiene rules will have to apply for well into next year. Limit your exposure by not going into public places when it isn’t necessary. If you do go into indoor public places, wear a mask and try to maintain an appropriate distance from other people. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
And, when your turn for a vaccination comes up, get it. Then show up for the follow-up vaccination.
For teachers, Stitt’s Thursday announcement means the wait for those vaccinations will be considerably shorter. Good for them. Good for him.