Three unvaccinated educators from the same Florida school district have died of COVID-19 within 24 hours of one another.
The deaths came between Tuesday and Wednesday this week. All three teachers worked for Broward County Public Schools and had not been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The three were identified as Pinewood Elementary teacher and union steward Janice Wright, 48; Dillard Elementary teacher Katina Jones and teaching assistant Yolonda Hudson-Williams, both 49 also of Dillard Elementary.
A fourth death, a Broward County Public Schools graduate who was said to have close ties to the school district through her job, also lost her life to the virus.
Janice Wright, who was a Broward County Public Schools special education teacher and a Broward Teachers Union steward at Pinewood Elementary School in North Lauderdale, Florida, died of complications with COVID-19 just before she had planned to get the vaccine
Dillard Elementary teacher Katina Jones, 49, (left and right) also died of COVID-19 this week
Yolanda Hudson Williams, 49, a teaching assistant at Dillard Elementary School
The teachers all passed away just as Broward County’s School Board voted to defy Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ order to drop the mask mandate.
The county will require teachers and children to keep mask protocols, hand sanitizer, extra sanitizing efforts in place for all students, staff, and visitors.
‘Within a 24-hour span, we had an assistant teacher pass away, a teacher at her school pass away, an elementary teacher pass away and another teacher at a high school,’ Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco said in a statement.
‘It’s extremely frightening. I hear this every day. Whether in Broward or elsewhere. We’re the 5th largest union in the country,’ she added.
‘It’s extremely frightening. I hear this every day. Whether in Broward or elsewhere. We’re the 5th largest union in the country,’ Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco, pictured, said
Dr. Rosalind Osgood who chairs the Broward County School Board, said she mourns the loss of four of their own. ‘I have been on the school board for 9 years, and for 9 years you get to connect with them,’ she told CBS Miami . ‘You love them. They become family.’
Dr. Rosalind Osgood who chairs the Broward County School Board, said she mourns the loss of four of their own.
‘I have been on the school board for 9 years, and for 9 years you get to connect with them,’ she told CBS Miami. ‘You love them. They become family.’
Schools in Broward County are expected to reopen for the new academic year on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Governor DeSantis has defended his decision to drop masks in school and public places.
Broward County School busses are seen as warnings of COVID-19 Delta variant surge among the unvaccinated as school is set to open
Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, pictured center, has defended his decision to drop masks in school and public places.
Anti-mask advocate Heather Tanner, right, tries to persuade Mary Tereilleger, who teaches three-year-olds in Broward County’s Head Start program, that students do not need to wear masks when they return to school during a protest outside of a Broward County School Board meeting earlier this week
Christy Pavlish, left, and Lauren Birkins display signs as they cross the street during a protest outside a Broward County School Board meeting to discuss a possible mask mandate when school starts next week
‘We believe the parents rather than the government should be making this decision,’ he said.
The governor has also threatened to refuse to pay superintendents and board members who go against the executive order banning mask mandates in schools.
In July DeSantis issued an executive order to protect ‘parents freedom to choose’ whether or not their children had to wear mask in schools.
The order noted that ‘children are at ‘low risk of contracting a serious illness due to COVID-19’ and said that ‘forcing’ children to wear masks could ‘inhibit breathing, and adversely affect communications in the classroom and student performance,’ among other things.
DeSantis has described CDC recommendations to wear face masks as ‘the most significant threat to freedom in my lifetime,’ and even accused the health agencies of ‘medical authoritarianism.’
‘He’s just pushing his political agenda to cater to the same constituents that were pro-Donald Trump,’ Fusco said to NPR.
‘I think because they scream louder, [he thinks] there must be more of them than the constituents that are taking this virus really [seriously] and want to be safe and secure.’
In recent weeks, coronavirus cases have spiked in Florida due to the highly contagious delta variant.
Over the last week state officials recorded 151,764 new cases of the virus. 14,675 of the cases were in Broward County.
The state also recorded an additional 1,071 deaths, a daily average of 153, in the health department’s weekly report.
This brings the statewide total to 2,877,214 cases and 40,766 deaths.
Florida no longer reports daily COVID-19 cases, instead publicly revealing weekly counts every Friday.
The Florida Department of Health reports 74% of the population of Broward County aged 12 and above to be fully vaccinated The average for the state as a whole stands at 65%.
Students wearing protective masks walk past a ‘Welcome Back’ sign before the first day of school at Sessums Elementary School in Riverview, Florida
Students, some wearing protective masks return to school. President Joe Biden has called school district superintendents in Florida praising them for doing what he called ‘the right thing’ after their respective boards implemented mask requirements in defiance of their Republican governors amid growing COVID-19 infections