FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Two Broward County teachers and an educational assistant died within 36 hours this week after contracting COVID-19, according to the teachers’ union.
Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco previously said that four educators had died, but the union issued a correction Friday afternoon, saying the fourth person she had referenced “was a female Broward County Public Schools graduate with close ties to the school district through her job.”
Another teacher’s assistant is hospitalized with the virus, Fusco told ABC News.
It comes as teachers from Florida’s second-largest public school district returned to campuses this week to prepare for the first day of classes next Wednesday.
It also comes as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis fights with individual school districts over implementing mask mandates given the recent COVID surge.
”We have three schools that have to talk about one of their colleagues that passed,” Fusco said.
One teacher and one educational assistant who died were from Dillard Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale, School Board Chair Rosalind Osgood confirmed. They were ages 48 and 49. Another 48-year-old teacher was from Pinewood Elementary in North Lauderdale.
Two of their names have not yet been released, however, on Friday, one of their names was released.
One was identified as 48-year-old Janice Wright, who worked as an elementary school teacher at Pinewood Elementary.
All three women were black and were similar in age.
None of the three were vaccinated, according to Fusco. One who “was on the road to getting vaccinated” but wasn’t yet cleared by her doctor to get the shot. She “was really looking forward to getting it in the next couple weeks,” the union president said.
Fusco said none of those educators had been back in school buildings since the end of last year.
She also went on to describe the 48-year-old teacher from Pinewood Elementary. “I spoke to her principal,” Fusco said. Her principal cried. So, I know that it’s heartbreaking because they lost a piece of their family.”
“We have no further information on any of the deaths. We grieve their losses along with their families and the school communities they left behind,” the union said in a statement.
Osgood says it’s likely there are other teachers battling the virus that the district hasn’t yet been made aware of.
“On Tuesday the district was contacted by different families to inform us that individuals had passed away with COVID,” Osgood said. “I’m certain that there are probably others and that their families have not contacted the district at this point.
“Just in natural numerics, we know that there’s probably more than four individuals that’ve been impacted by COVID in some type of way,” she added. “So it’s very, very challenging and difficult. It’s very, very sad.”
Two of the educators worked at the same school, while the others worked at different schools. At least two of the affected schools are elementary schools, Rosalind Osgood, Chair of the Broward County School Board, told ABC News.
Broward’s public school district is battling the state over the face mask mandate the school board voted 8-1 to keep in place earlier this week.
That goes against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ orders against such mask mandates, and the state’s education commissioner has threatened to withhold Broward School Board salaries. The district has a 5 p.m. deadline Friday to reply to the state about its plans.
Broward County is leading the nation in new COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to federal data.
“Our numbers are horrible,” Broward Mayor Steve Geller said of the coronavirus surge in the county.