17 Florida school district workers have died from COVID since August, officials say

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A Florida school district has reported 17 employee deaths from COVID-19 since August as schools continue to fight the state and Governor Ron DeSantis, who have banned them from requiring masks.

Polk County Public Schools say a dozen employees have died from the coronavirus since starting school on August 10, according to multiple media outlets. Five others have died before.

The district called each death a “devastating blow” to the community in a statement obtained by NBC News.

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“The pandemic continues to have a severe impact on our community, and many government officials – including educators, health workers, rescue workers and law enforcement officials – are suffering tragic losses,” the Minister said. district.

Polk County School Board. Florida

Google maps Polk County School Board, Florida

Lynn Wilson, a member of the Polk County School Board, called this a “terrible tragedy” in an interview with WESH2 News. While he said he doesn’t believe a mask policy is enforceable, he thinks a virtual learning option would have been helpful, “and we couldn’t do that either.”

Florida schools are currently required to allow families to opt out of mask requirements, DeSantis says, and individual school districts are fighting the state for their right to adopt such warrants in classrooms. .

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Stephanie Yocum, president of Polk Education Associate, criticized the state’s “laissez-faire” approach to the situation “in terms of mitigation strategies and being very restrictive for local government from local school boards. and what we can and cannot do. “

Empty school hallway

Empty school hallway

Getty

To help better protect everyone in elementary schools, where most students remain ineligible to receive a COVID vaccine, the district is using federal funding to install desk screens “to help protect our K-5 elementary students , who often work in close proximity to each other, ”they said in an Oct. 11 post on Facebook.

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The district said it has ordered around 50,000 desktop screens and expects installation to be completed “within a month,” according to WESH2 News. Each classroom is also equipped with an air purifier.

So far, 433 Polk County school employees and 3,434 students have tested positive for COVID since the start of the school year, according to the district’s coronavirus dashboard. More than 21,000 students and staff have had to self-quarantine.

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