While COVID vaccines promise some sense of nearing the end of the pandemic, most Floridians will not gain access to doses for quite some time. The coronavirus remains very much still a reality most Florida citizens.
Including students and teachers, who are wrapping up an abnormal 2020 fall semester.
Data from the Department of Health show 38,151 cases related to Florida public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities since Sept. 6, according to an analysis by the Florida Phoenix.
Last week — from Dec. 6 through Dec. 12 — the state data show 4,256 new COVID-19 cases related to those institutions.
Post-secondary schools accounted for 342 cases: 232 students, 5 teachers, 48 staff, and 57 other cases, the Phoenix found.
The remaining 3,914 cases were associated Florida’s public and private K-12 schools. That week, 2,923 students tested positive for COVID-19 along with 295 teachers, 177 staff, and 519 other people related to K-12 schools.
Friday is the last day of the 2020 fall semester for Florida’s K-12 students. College and university students are also finished for the semester and many have or will return home for the holiday break.
The data came in the same week Florida received the first round of the new Pfizer vaccine, with a Moderna Inc. version expected imminently. Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ policy, the vaccines will be given to front-line health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities — not to educators or other school personnel.
Regardless, the vaccines’ arrival comforts some Florida teachers, while some remain hesitant to take the shot.
“The news of a vaccine is really encouraging,” says Antoinette O’Brian, an elementary-school teacher who works in a brick-and-mortar setting with students who have experienced trauma and require extensive emotional support.
O’Brian told the Phoenix: “Teaching during the pandemic has been extremely difficult and scary but, with a vaccine on the horizon, I feel hopeful for the first time.”