Quarterly News and Updates Oct 2020
Fall time in New England inspires a sense of wonder as we admire the brilliant foliage. In this fall newsletter, we admire the resilience of essential workers, focusing specifically on keeping educators safe and well as they face the stresses of in-person or remote teaching.

Our colleagues from the Healthy Work Campaign analyze the educator exposures and stress during the pandemic, and suggest a proper response for protecting teacher safety and wellbeing. We share a newly curated COVID-19 educator resources page (special thanks to Tom St. Louis and Ivan Cherniack from the CT Occupational Health Unit for sharing school re-opening guidance). And finally, we offer a new remote team facilitation training course to help professionals engage employees around healthy remote work design.

Total Worker Health continues to be especially relevant for teachers working on the front lines and navigating unchartered waters. Wishing all teachers, parents, and students a safe and successful semester.
Reopening Schools: Ensuring Healthy Work for K-12 Educators

Marnie Dobson, Ph.D, Pouran Faghri, M.D.
Healthy Work Campaign www.healthywork.org

School reopening during COVID-19 is a worker health and safety issue. This August-September, thousands of teachers and staff and their unions were concerned about being forced back into classrooms by state and local governments, some in districts which did not follow recommended CDC guidelines regarding physical distancing or mask-wearing. While many of the largest school districts in the country decided to begin the school year in online learning, many other schools even in regions with a high level of virus transmission that tried to open in-person, experienced outbreaks and were forced to close again. Unfortunately, teachers and other staff have died from COVID-19 since school reopenings began. Many teachers and staff are in high risk categories - older, having pre-existing conditions, or caring for family members with pre-existing conditions, but some younger teachers have also died.  

In July as part of the Healthy Work Campaign, we published an article Reopening Schools: Mental Health vs Health & Safety? about the debate raging in the U.S. about whether schools (K-12) could safely re-open in the Fall for in-person classes despite the surging COVID-19 pandemic. The debate seemed to hinge on whether the health and safety concerns related to teaching in-person during the pandemic, could be outweighed by the educational deficits and mental health issues for students and parents as a result of the shutdowns and distance learning that began in March 2020. 

We recently published an update to this article in the Healthy Work Campaign blog to find out what are the health and safety consequences, so far, of school reopenings. It turns out that the evidence is clear that children are not immune, outbreaks do occur among children in close proximity to each other, and that infections in children increased substantially through the summer and may be increasing again in the early Fall. We also found that tracking school outbreaks has been spotty at best. In August a Kansas teacher took it upon herself to comb the internet for news stories about school infections, teacher cases and deaths and began a Google spreadsheet. The project became an overwhelming success and has been taken on by the National Education Association which launched the NEA School and Campus Reporting Site. However, it is problematic that surveillance of this important public health crisis in our education system is left to individuals or professional associations and not the government. 

Teachers' advocacy efforts are helping to protect not only their own health and safety, but also the health & safety of students and the community by fighting for adequate PPE, attempting social distanced, hybrid teaching methods, and improving online learning. Teachers are on the frontlines and are at greater risk of exposure to the virus, but they are also vulnerable to increased job stress and burnout. There have been efforts in the past by teachers and their unions to develop effective interventions to reduce this burden, but further efforts in this regard are needed now more than ever. It is important that we all support our teachers and staff as they continue doing the heavy lifting in educating our children through this unprecedented time, while also fighting for safe work environments. 

Wednesday, October 14th - Occupational Health Internship Program: Moving the Occupational Health and Safety Field Forward. OHIP Alumni speakers

Thursday, October 15th and Thursday, October 22nd - Webinar Series: "People" People Working or Not Working in Isolation: Coping Tools for the Hospitality Industry. Dr. Connie Wanberg, Univ. of Minnesota

Friday, October 16th - 2020 Ray Elling Virtual Health and Safety Convention: Intersection of Community & Worker Safety and Health. ConnectiCOSH

Thursday, October 29th - Working on Wellness, MDPH: Workplace Wellbeing in the Work from Home Era. Mari Ryan, AdvancingWellness

Thursday, November 12th - Total Worker Health Leadership Training. Colorado Center for Work, Health, and Environment


Mondays Nov 2, 9, 16 or Fridays Nov 6, 13, 20 - Healthy remote work virtual Facilitator Training. Serena Rice, MS

Wednesday, December 9th - Working on Wellness MDPH: Ergonomic Tips: Maximize Your Comfort and Performance When Computing Remotely.
Michelle M. Robertson, PhD., CPE
Updated COVID-19 Resources
Check out our NEWLY REFORMATTED COVID-19 page:

  • Search by Audience
  • Learn about CPH-NEW's response
  • View the new Educator Preparedness resources page
  • View the new video on Ventilation and Covid-19
Center Publications

Peer-Reviewed Publications:

For News&Views issues and journal articles, please visit the publications page
Awards and Recognitions

Congratulations to the following alumni on their academic achievements:

Sara Namazi recently accepted a tenure-track assistant professor position in the Health Sciences at Springfield College. She continues as a Research Affiliate of CPH-NEW.
Winnie Chin completed her doctorate in Occupational Ergonomics and Safety from UMass Lowell, "Exposure and Process Evaluation in Healthcare Intervention Research." She is now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) and Harvard Center for Work, Health and Well-Being.
Scott Fulmer completed his doctorate in Occupational Ergonomics and Safety, dissertation titled, "Measurement of Pain and Injury in Commercial Lobstering, What Can Be Done About It, With Evidence of Commercial Fishing as a Determinant in Mortality"
Congratulations as well to Bora Plaku-Alakbarova (former CPH-NEW Research Assistant) who defended her dissertation, "Organochlorine Chemicals and Puberty in Boys."

Finally, congratulations to CPH-NEW Research Assistants and Master's graduates Chandi Shadev, Agatha Adigwe, Cesar Morocco, and Sundus Saddique.
CPH-NEW is a NIOSH TWH Center for Excellence
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