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Florida’s teachers and health experts agree: Trump’s push to reopen schools amid current COVID-19 surge is reckless

With no comprehensive school reopening plan, Secretary DeVos can’t promise that schools will be safe when they reopen, and yet the Trump administration is proceeding anyway, claiming that “the science should not stand in the way,” and even threatening to withhold federal education funding to public schools that don’t fully reopen. This news comes as one-third of children in Florida tested for COVID-19 yielded positive results, according to the Sun Sentinel.

“Trump’s push to reopen schools with a one size fits all approach is proof that he has a complete lack of understanding of the dire situation here in Florida, and a lack of empathy for the teachers and families who will bear the brunt of his reckless decisions,” said Florida Democratic Party Spokesperson Frances Swanson. “Floridians deserve a president who will put public health and safety over politics. Floridians deserve Joe Biden.”

Across the state, Florida’s teachers and health experts oppose Trump and DeSantis’ rush to reopen schools amid the current surge in coronavirus cases, and they are speaking out. More below:

LEON COUNTY:

“This is no secret. When I signed up to be an educator 17 years ago, I never thought I’d be expected to sacrifice my health and safety and my family’s health and safety,” Hilary Parsons wrote to the School Board. “Yet, it seems that this country is in the middle of a war: science versus politics. As a result, numerous people every day are dying.” [Tallahassee Democrat, 7/16/20]

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY:

The CEO of Jackson Health said on Morning Joe that the current positive COVID-19 test rates in Miami-Dade are “not indicative of us being able to open schools here in Miami.” [MSNBC, 7/14/20]

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY:

“Back in March we were way down (in COVID cases) and we closed schools. Now we’re all the way up here (in COVID cases) and they’re telling us to go back. It just doesn’t make sense,” said Dr. Christy Foust, a Florida teacher. […] “Please do the right thing, give us a virtual start and give COVID a chance to settle down before we go back,” said Foust. [WFTS-Tampa Bay, 7/15/20]

“I’m here because I just feel like it’s absolutely ridiculous to be considering putting our children in this unsafe environment,” said Vanessa Walters, a Folsom Elementary special education teacher, who plans to keep her own 10-year-old daughter in online schooling. “It has to be safe. We don’t have the measures in place.” [Tampa Bay Times, July 15, 2020]

PALM BEACH COUNTY:

Dr. Sanborn, who is himself a parent, said while he agrees children need to be in school, it’s difficult to do with the current surge of coronavirus cases in South Florida. “Even though most children do not get sick, you have all children potentially getting exposed to the virus, and getting the virus, you will quickly fill up some of the children’s hospitals,” said Sanborn, referring to kids who could contract a rare complicated case. He said he’s seen some kids get very sick with respiratory illness from COVID-19. [CBS12, 7/12/20]

In Florida’s Palm Beach County, where the school district is looking at its options for when school resumes, the county’s health director, Dr. Alina Alonso, had a warning. “While many of these especially younger people are asymptomatic, when you take X-rays of their lungs … they are seeing there is damage to the lungs,” she said. “We don’t know how that is going to manifest a year from now or two years from now. Is that child going to have chronic pulmonary problems?” [NPR, 7/15/20]

BROWARD COUNTY:

“I was actually crying about it this morning,” Argent said. “How are these little guys going to wear their masks? I can’t make them wear all their shoes all day. How will I be safe?” [Sun Sentinel, 7/11/20]

“All of our teachers would love to be able to go back on campus and teach our students the way we always have if COVID wasn’t happening,” Broward Teachers Union president Anna Fusco said. “[But] I think every day that it shows COVID is increasing in its numbers and it’s got everybody concerned.” [Sun Sentinel, 7/11/20]

ST. JOHNS COUNTY:

“I would like to see a delayed start,” she [SJEA President Michelle] said, adding that it would give the district more time to get PPE supplies and distance learning plans in place. “I truly believe all teachers, principals and support staff want to be face to face. But right now, as president of our union, I do not believe it’s safe to go back.” [Florida Times-Union, 7/12/20]

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