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Survey: 42% of teachers in South Carolina at heightened risk if they return to classrooms

SC for Ed polled more than 7,000 teachers in South Carolina and found many have health conditions that put them at higher risk for coronavirus.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — SC for Ed, an organization that advocates for teachers in South Carolina, found that over 42% of teachers polled are at an increased risk for severe illness from coronavirus.

The organization polled 7,731 teachers  in South Carolina between July 6 and July 9 through an online survey. Of the respondents, 3,275 teachers had a health condition that would put them at an increased risk for severe illness if they contracted coronavirus. That accounts for 42% of the teachers polled.

"We've been hearing from teachers all over the state about the concerns they have about returning to school," said Katie Harris, the Director of Area Reps for SC for ED.  

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According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, people with health conditions such as obesity, serious heart conditions, Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, COPD, organ transplant and sickle cell are at an increased risk when it comes to COVID-19.

In addition, some 22% of teachers are at a "possible increased risk," according to the survey. Those who may be at increased risk suffer from conditions including Type 1 diabetes, hypertension, asthma, pregnancy, weakened immune system, and smoking, among other things, according to the CDC.

Nearly 65% of those who took part in the survey reported at least one health condition that would put them at risk. 

"It's very concerning. There are many teachers with pre-existing conditions," said Harris who is also a teacher in the Fort Mill School District. 

"Teachers want to go back to work. We want to be with our kids, but we also want to be safe," added Harris. 

She praised leaders in Fort Mill who laid out a plan Monday for returning to class with safety in mind. The plan includes a face mask requirement for students and staff as well as social distancing and options for virtual learning. 

Harris said SC for Ed acknowledges that the safety of the students is top priority, but hopes this survey will help give a voice to teachers too. 

"A part that's kind of being left out of the conversation right now is, 'what about the adults? We hope people can see these aren't hypothetical ideas. These are real people with real health concerns."

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In South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster says his goal is to reopen schools to in-person instruction starting next month. 

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In North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper is expected to make an announcement this week. 

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