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‘I’m swimming in COVID’: Tampa Bay educators angry with governor for ‘not protecting’ them with vaccine

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – For Tampa Bay teachers, a return to the classroom after the holidays created high anxiety for educators. Many say they were worried about what they call a lack of concern from the state.

Specifically pointing to Governor Ron DeSantis.

One Hillsborough teacher asked, “So, am I afraid to go back?  Yes. Because I know what I’m going into. I’m going to be swimming in COVID, and that’s the reality.”

Education activist, Bianca Goolsby, led a Zoom call Sunday where teachers discussed their concerns about returning to the classroom this first week of the new year.

Teacher after teacher talked about how disappointed they are in the actions of Gov. DeSantis, telling us they do not feel protected in schools.

Another teacher told those on the Zoom call, “It scares me so much that I’m not going back in.  I’m taking a leave because  I’m making my decision on being a son of an 80-year-old mom who I want to see.”

On Monday, the announcement came from the Governor’s office that teachers will not be included in the category of essential workers next-up for getting vaccinated.

“This is based on data. And, if you look at the mortality, 65 and up represents over 80 percent of the COVID mortality in our country and our state of Florida. So, that’s where we’ve got to focus on the outset,” Gov. DeSantis said.

DeSantis told reporters in Miami that right now seniors are the top priority in the state for getting the vaccine.

“So, we’re going where the risk is greatest,” he said. ” We’re going where we have the most impact on saving lives.”

8 On Your Side reached out to the Florida Education Association, the statewide federation of teacher and education workers’ labor union. According to its website, the union has 137,000 members, making the organization the largest union in the state.

Union president, Andrew Spar, released a statement Monday.

Spar told 8 On Your Side: “The governor continues to put politics before the health of our teachers, staff and students. The CDC recommends that frontline workers, including educators, be given priority for receiving the COVID vaccine. While the governor pats himself on the back, we have seen a significant increase in COVID cases and deaths in our communities and schools. We again ask the governor to follow the advice of the CDC and add educators and other frontline workers to this round of vaccinations. We all agree that the best place for students to learn is in our public school classrooms. Now is the time for the governor to step up and protect students and those who work in our schools.”

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