In the Know
Preparing for the H1N1 Flu
One valuable resource for NEA members concerned about health issues, such as the H1N1 flu virus, is the NEA Health Information Network (HIN).
The diverse nature of higher education institutions and NEA higher education members working in those institutions poses serious issues and challenges during emergency situations, health-related or otherwise. But resources are available. Currently, the NEA Health Information Network (http://neahin.org/h1n1/) is standing by with up-to-date information and advice in dealing with the H1N1 flu.
In the meanwhile, here are a few suggestions from the HIN to help you prepare your campus for a flu pandemic, should one come your way.
1. Check to see if your institution has written health and safety policies and procedures and an H1N1 contingency plan. If so, familiarize yourself with them, and encourage your colleagues to do so. If a plan doesn’t exist, encourage your local Association to engage with your institution in developing one.
2. Be aware of implications the plan has for your collective bargaining agreement. Review language in your institution’s policies and/or your collective bargaining agreement pertaining to health and safety, especially sick leave policy for health emergencies and health related shutdowns. Ensure that the end result of these discussions is a formal, written plan that addresses the health issues and the working conditions of faculty and staff.
3. Encourage your institution to follow CDC guidance for higher education institutions. Review and revise policies to allow faculty and staff to stay home when ill or caring for ill family members. For students, consider altering attendance policies to ensure that students stay home when ill.
4. Check with your local union representatives to ensure that your salary and benefits will be protected in the event of a pandemic closing. Clarify whether you will be required to report for work during an H1N1 closure or significant outbreak. Since distance learning may help students maintain self-isolation, determine if your institution will require that you implement these practices, and if so, negotiate the implementation and impact of changes to working conditions. Secure necessary trainings and compensation for members using new teaching techniques.
5. Make sure you know how the decisions about campus closings will be made and communicated. Be sure to clarify which staff will be required to continue to work in the event of a suspension and make sure proper precautions are taken on their behalf, such as making available hand sanitizer, face masks, gloves, and other protection.
From The Lectern
Our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter – that at that point we don't merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.
- President Barack Obama
Address to a joint session of Congress
September 9, 2009