13 Staff at a Florida School District Have Died of COVID in Just 3 Weeks

At least 13 staff members within the Miami-Dade County public school district have died due to coronavirus since the middle of last month, a union leader said.

The figure represents an anecdotal tally of the number of COVID-related deaths, United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats told CNN, as the district, the fourth-largest in the country, follows virus case totals but doesn’t keep track of staff casualties caused by the virus. That information was provided by families of the deceased.

“These were extraordinary educators and people, and their loss is being felt throughout the community,” Hernandez-Mats said.

The known deaths included four teachers, seven school bus drivers, a security monitor and a cafeteria worker. None of those individuals had been vaccinated.

Noting that misinformation has created a lot of fear in the community, particularly among marginalized or underserved groups of people, Hernandez-Mats also said that all 13 of those who had died were Black. Vaccine rates in Black and Brown communities are notably lower throughout the U.S., due partially to hesitancy about the vaccine related to historical medical atrocities and the distrust that remains because of them, but also largely because of issues related to accessibility to the vaccines themselves within nonwhite communities.

In response to the distressing news, Hernandez-Mats and other leaders in the community coordinated a pop-up vaccination site on Tuesday, in part to honor those school staff members who had died. Around 40 individuals showed up to receive their first vaccination shots within the first few hours of the event’s opening, the county union president said.

Florida has been struggling with coronavirus for the past several weeks. Its daily average of new cases being identified is 65 percent higher than the U.S. average, and the number of people dying each day because of the virus is more than 3.5 times higher than the national rate as well.

In spite of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) reluctance to push for vaccinations among his state’s residents, a number of studies have shown that obtaining a vaccine for COVID-19 remains the best way to prevent contracting the virus as well as avoiding the need for hospitalization.

New research based on data from three separate locations in the U.S., for example, demonstrates that vaccinated people are far less likely to get infected than was previously assumed about breakthrough cases. New research shows that only around one in every 5,000 vaccinated individuals tests positive for a “breakthrough” case of coronavirus per day. In Seattle, one of the areas examined by the study, an unvaccinated person was around 10 times more likely to test positive for coronavirus than a vaccinated individual.

Other studies have shown that vaccines, beyond reducing the chances of getting the virus, also drastically reduce the possibility of needing hospitalization. Unvaccinated individuals are 29 times more likely to require a trip to the hospital to get treated for coronavirus, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found. Additionally, those who are vaccinated but still get infected with COVID are less likely to spread it unlike those who are unvaccinated and contract the virus, another study found.