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Amid staff shortages and rising virus cases, TEA calls on Lee to do more to help educators

The association is pushing for, among other things, mask mandates in schools for all staff and students.

With staff shortages and COVID-19 cases on the rise, the Tennessee Education Association is calling on Gov. Bill Lee to take stricter safety measures.

TEA President Beth Brown sent the letter Monday. The association represents thousands of educators in the state.

TEA said cases among staff in Tennessee schools are higher than the infection rates of their surrounding communities.

In-person instruction creates a greater risk of exposure and infection, according to Brown's letter.

Many school systems have begun switching to virtual learning this month with virus cases rising and students or staff facing isolation or quarantine.

More than 1,800 people are in Tennessee hospitals with COVID-19 complications; more than 3,900 people have died from it, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

The association is calling on Lee to take a number of steps, including:

*Seek a mask mandate for all school staff and students

*Publish state guidance for infection thresholds for school closures

*Provide substantial emergency state school funding for high quality PPEs, updated HVAC and air quality systems, and additional cleaning services"

*"Fund extended educator sick leave for active cases or quarantines"

*"Provide hazardous duty pay for all staff directly involved with students"

Credit: TEA
TEA President Beth Brown

TEA also complains that the state Education Department's COVID-19 dashboard is replete with errors and that Lee's administration should make it better.