FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – In the past couple of weeks, South Florida has lost several teachers and bus drivers to COVID-19. The president of the teachers’ union in Miami-Dade County says “the loss has been devastating.”
So is it time for schools to consider vaccine mandates for teachers and other employees — something private sector businesses have begun doing?
“When we haven’t had the support of wearing something as simple as a mask, we doubt there will ever be a mandate for vaccinations,” said Karla Hernadez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade union.
“I’m not in favor of that,” Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco said when asked the same question. “At least not right now.”
Hernadez-Mats said this past week at least three teachers in Miami-Dade have died, and seven school bus employees also fell victims to the pandemic in a span of a week.
Those who have been lost tend to be African Americans and not vaccinated.
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“I’m pleading. I’m urging our community to please get vaccinated,” Hernadez-Mats said. “[In] Miami-Dade, only a little over 30% of the African American population has been vaccinated.”
The Miami-Dade teachers’ union believes based on a survey that 85% of educators in the county are vaccinated. They’re working to get school board approval for an incentive that would pay teachers $275 to get the shot.
Broward County has also lost teachers to COVID-19.
“We do have a couple in the hospital with COVID that are not vaccinated with complications,” Fusco said.
Her union is working on more vaccine drives and a testing site at its Tamarac headquarters. There is already a $250 incentive in place for Broward teachers who get vaccinated.
Broward County Public Schools started the new school year Aug. 18. As of Monday, the district reported there were 553 documented coronavirus infections at schools, including the cases of 350 students and 205 employees.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools started classes Aug. 23. As of Monday, that district reported there 151 coronavirus cases, including 38 students and 113 employees.