LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) – As coronavirus in Pinellas County breaks the threshold of 50,000 cases, there is a new push to add teachers to the vaccination priority list.
According to the Florida Department of Health, more than 1,100 people in the county have died from coronavirus. That number includes a Clearwater High School teacher who died from coronavirus three weeks ago.
Tuesday the school board called on Governor Ron DeSantis for help. The governor has made his stance clear over the past few weeks that the elderly are his top priority to get the vaccine.
In a letter voted on by the Pinellas County School Board members Tuesday, DeSantis was asked to add teachers to the priority list.
“At the end of the day, we still need teachers,” Mikera Williams said. She said her mom has been a reading teacher in Pinellas County for 20 years. “My mom has been telling me how teachers are [leaving the profession] left and right. Last year she was nominated for teacher of the year.”
Following in her mom’s footsteps, Williams is applying to be a substitute teacher. She said teachers deserve a shot at the COVID vaccine.
“They’re coming in contact with a lot of kids.”
In a 6-0 unanimous vote Tuesday, the school board voted to send a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis, asking him to classify school employees as essential workers to get on the vaccination priority list.
“We have all heard from parents & teachers about things that are or are not happening in our schools,” school board member Caprice Edmond said in Tuesday’s meeting. “I think it sends a strong message to our governor.”
Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association President Nancy Vilardi said their organization sent a petition to the governor too.
“The crowds in the classrooms are already thick, it will get worse as more students return,” Vilardi said. She says Governor DeSantis must act urgently.
“More teachers will get sick. Our caseloads are climbing rapidly within the schools. Last week alone we had 309 cases,” Vilardi said.
Williams said while the opportunity for teachers to have the vaccine is vital, it shouldn’t be mandatory. “I’m still a little iffy about the vaccination. It’s so new,” Williams said.
8 On Your Side reached out to Governor DeSantis asking if he had plans to prioritize teachers with the vaccine, but we did not hear back.