Arizona teachers union leader says tweet wasn’t advocating sick-out ‘in any way’

Jan 4, 2022, 11:58 AM
(Pixabay Photo)...
(Pixabay Photo)
(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX – An Arizona teachers union leader said his tweet about staffing shortages possibly affecting school operations wasn’t a threat for a sick-out, but a heads-up for parents as the omicron variant fuels a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“Parents should be preparing for a temporary shift to remote learning. It will be due to not enough staff being able to report for work,” Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas tweeted Monday, the first morning of classes after the winter break.

Thomas told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Gaydos and Chad Show he wasn’t advocating a sick-out “in any way, shape or form.”

“I was reacting to text messages, to emails, to conversations, to social media posts, to what I am seeing in the news that’s indicating that educators are very worried about … what they were walking back into today, what they will be walking into tomorrow,” he said Monday afternoon.

Even though it’s proving to produce less severe illness than previous COVID-19 variants, omicron is causing a spike in infections because it’s so contagious.

Arizona’s seven-day average for new cases has more than doubled since the day after Christmas, and the number of COVID-related inpatients in the state’s hospitals is at its highest level in two weeks, according to the latest data.

Thomas’ tweet drew responses from at least two Republican candidates for governor. Matt Salmon tweeted that Thomas “is pushing to lock down schools again,” while Karrin Taylor Robson tweeted that “the Arizona teachers union is threatening a sick-out.”

Thomas said he was “trying to be helpful” and didn’t think the tweet “was that controversial.”

“But the politicians will jump on it and try to make it into something else, and that doesn’t help us at all,” he said.

Thomas said his intention was to alert parents so they have time to think about child care options and other adjustments that a move to remote learning would require.

“How do I prepare for that in a sense that it might be a day, it might be a few days — nothing permanent at all and certainly nothing orchestrated by educators,” he said.

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Arizona teachers union leader says tweet wasn’t advocating sick-out ‘in any way’