Lorenzo has suffered from palpitations and dizziness all his life with no apparent cause other than the stress or fatigue of running after the children he teaches in a town in Andalusia. Two years ago, however, he was diagnosed with extrasystole and dilation of the thoracic aorta artery, a heart disease compatible with everyday life thanks to medication but not with a possible complication from COVID-19. Now, he is awaiting the medical report that determines if it is safe for him to return to the classroom in a “chaotic” return to school or if he will have to face this double danger on September 10.
“I presented my case to the Andalusian Education Delegation last August and their response was that I belong to risk level one, so I don’t think they will give me an alternative,” explains the teacher. The levels to which it refers are those established the latest Occupational Risk Prevention guide of the Ministry of Health for the management of vulnerability in non-health areas.
According to this document, at level one no cardiovascular disease like Lorenzo’s is a reason for adaptation, change of position or sick leave, since the risk of contagion would be “similar to that of the community.” It also does not include immunodeficiency, diabetes, chronic lung disease, severe liver disease, cancer under active treatment, morbid obesity, pregnancy or being over 60 years of age. “In my family there is a history of heart attack and my cardiologist told me that the blood clots caused by the coronavirus could make the disease worse,” says Lorenzo.
The Independent Trade Union and Civil Service Center (CSIF) has denounced the “lack of protection to which vulnerable teachers are subjected, such as pregnant women or staff with serious pathologies” and is studying taking legal action against refusals to exemption requests like the one Lorenzo expects.
The latter claims to have “a lot of fear and uncertainty”, but also rejects “teleworking as it was proposed in the pandemic.” His solution is to ensure the distance between the tables, since in his classroom the desks are separated by barely 55 centimeters, and lower the class ratios: “The groups are not bubbles, they are pompous, and it is impossible to get used to the idea of what a rentrée one of these characteristics “, this first grade teacher resigned.
Laura, a teacher in the Valencian Community, has proven it in own meats this Monday despite being considered vulnerable personnel. She also followed the instructions of the Ministry, sent the medical reports that prove the autoimmune, degenerative disease with active outbreaks that she has suffered for 30 years and a few days ago received the answer by mail: she would not be recognized as such and would have to join his usual position in Primary for the start of classes. “I want to believe that those who have valued this have medical criteria, but the truth is that I don’t know because they didn’t even do a telephone interview with me,” he told elDiario.es.
“I have spent all these months confined to my house in the country, I have not gone anywhere or seen practically anyone because I am very careful with my illness,” explains Laura. “Today has been the opposite reality, I have felt totally exposed and I will not deny that I come home with fear,” she confesses on the other side of the phone. She hopes that the Ministry will review her case and that of other colleagues, “because although my work is precious and vocational, I do not even want to think what a contagion of COVID-19 would mean in my situation.”
Laura’s personal unease, however, does not cloud her pride in the protocols that the Valencian Community has taken before going back to school. A feeling that is not contagious in the vast majority of Spain and that, together with this lack of protection for vulnerable teachers, is sponsoring strikes and mobilizations in the Basque Country, Galicia, Murcia and Madrid, for the moment. “The administrative authorities, discounting the Valencian, have been late to work and have not provided resources,” explains José María Ruiz, spokesman for the CCOO Public School.
The union will formalize this week a request to the Ministries of Health and Education for teachers to be considered risk level two, that is, workers “with the possibility of contact with symptomatic people, maintaining a safe distance and without direct action on them” . In this way, the administration should offer teachers who demonstrate a decompensated pathology an adaptation of their job or even a medical leave.
Like the CSIF, CCOO criticizes that the prevention services of the autonomous communities are sending to work most of the people who demonstrate themselves as vulnerable. “In a closed class with at least 20 students, even keeping the meter and a half and the mask, there is a lot of risk for them,” Ruiz understands.
In addition to serious illnesses and pathologies, the union representative emphasizes those over 60 years of age, “who represent 5% of public schools” (representing some 35,000 people). In his case, he understands that “the situation of each applicant should be assessed”, but in no case consider them as a risk-free group in the face of this uncertain return to school. In the same way, UGT urges to include the rest of the non-teaching personnel who are also exposed in the training centers, such as the monitors of the canteens and coaches, the nurses or the cleaning workers.
“In our opinion, raising requests at a personal level is not a solution, because to begin with, they are forgetting about this other part of the staff”, defends Maribel Loranca, from UGT. “For it to be fulfilled properly, there must be a state protocol, which guarantees the worker a negotiated basis, some guidelines for adaptation to telework, if necessary, and sick leave in cases of greater vulnerability. It should be a global situation “, understands.
According to José María Ruiz, there are many tasks in the centers that people who cannot afford to be infected with COVID-19 could dedicate themselves to: “Coordination of activities and projects of the center, secretarial work, taking care of the patio, complementary activities , telematic libraries, attention to diversity, and even starting new projects “, he lists. To do this, the CCOO spokesman stresses that the replacement of casualties must be done automatically, something that has been conspicuous by its absence in the confinement, where “17,500 positions have been left unfilled,” he reveals.
“It is these colleagues who must be cared for and protected. We are not even talking about third parties; it is their health that is in danger,” sums up Maribel Loranca. “It is time for them to protect us a bit,” shared teacher Laura. “As soon as this situation passes, we teachers promise to be in the front line as we have always done, but not at the cost of our own health.”