An opinion article published in the Washington Post on Oct. 9 alleged that “even with the limited school reopenings so far, the disproportionate number of teachers appearing in covid-19 obituaries is striking.”
The claim, however, is unsubstantiated.
The Washington Post said "the disproportionate number of teachers appearing in covid-19 obituaries is striking."
The author has not provided any evidence of disproportionate representation.
— Corey A. DeAngelis (@DeAngelisCorey) October 21, 2020
Instead of providing any data or evidence on the number of school-related teacher deaths, the seemingly shocking line merely links back to one of the author Dana
Neither the Post nor Milbank responded to The Federalist’s request for a source for the claim. It remains unclear if WaPo will be issuing a correction.
The article comes a couple of months into the Fall 2020 semester when school districts around the nation are still facing decisions on how to safely reopen schools, virtual learning, and other issues.
While studies show that school reopenings are better for learning and the economy and that transmission rates among children tend to be lower or even nonexistent, many teachers’ unions have strongly opposed reopening, saying that the conditions are deemed too dangerous to return in-person.
Even though the WaPo article also argues sending kids back to “unsafe” schools could have detrimental effects on both student and teacher health, a new study highlighted in a recent Wall Street Journal article shows that “Sweden never shut its schools, and teachers there have had the same fatality rate during this pandemic as IT technicians, who can often work from home.”
The study also notes that there is a “low COVID-19 mortality risk of children’s and adolescents’ teachers” and that “teachers do not appear to be a high-risk group in Sweden may contribute one more piece of evidence to the ongoing discussion.”
Even though the U.S. does not have a substantial roundup of occupational death data yet, a simple search of news reports since schools began reopening in September shows that while some teachers have passed away from coronavirus, there is no evidence that it is a “disproportionate number” as Milbank claims.
A list of “all the teacher Covid-19 fatalities to date” published by Forbes on Sept. 10 with the promise to “regularly update” shows six teacher deaths, with only a few actually dying from a case of COVID-19 that they contracted while at the school or teaching.
Other outlets documenting the deaths of teachers report the same findings. While some teachers who died are believed to have contracted COVID-19 from their schools, others are known to have become infected after trips, gatherings, and events outside of their job.
One article from CBS News reports that 210 members of the American Federation of Teachers union have died, but do not link to the source for that information either. The article also notes that “the early phase of the pandemic claimed the lives of dozens of teachers,” which could factor into that statistic.