July 24 (UPI) -- A vast majority of U.S. schoolteachers are concerned about exposure to COVID-19 in classrooms this fall, a Gallup survey Friday showed.
According to the poll, three-quarters of teachers from kindergarten through high school said they're either "very" (57%) or "moderately" (18%) concerned about COVID-19 exposure in the classroom. That's an increase of 16% from May.
The survey comes amid uncertainty across the United States about how and when schools can safely be reopened. Some health experts have warned against resuming classes too soon, while others -- including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief Robert Redfield -- have expressed confidence the next school year can safely begin on time.
The study found that teachers are far more concerned about coronavirus exposure than workers in other fields. Just 21% of other workers said they're very concerned and 29% said they're moderately worried.
"This divergence in the views of teachers and workers in all other industries has grown since May," Gallup wrote. "While concern about workplace exposure has been fairly steady among workers who are not teachers, this unease has risen sharply among teachers."
Teachers have been working remotely since schools were closed in the spring. In Friday's survey, 74% of educators said they would continue to work remotely if it was up to them. That figure was 57% in May.
"They are increasingly saying they prefer to work remotely almost entirely because of concerns about the virus," Gallup noted.
"Even if districts decide to go fully in-person, whether they will be able to do so depends on teachers' willingness to go into work and parents' willingness to send their children to school."
Gallup surveyed nearly 500 teachers and 2,600 non-education workers for the poll, which has a margin of error of between 4 and 9 points.