Four educators in Broward County, Florida, died within 24 hours of each other from Covid-19 related complications, local education officials said.
“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,” Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union, told CNN affiliate WFOR.
Broward County School Board Chair Rosalind Osgood was aware of several teachers’ deaths, telling CNN on Friday: “We got information on Tuesday that was reported to us. I know of three of those teachers that passed away from Covid in Broward County.”
At least three of the educators were unvaccinated, Fusco told WFOR. The vaccination status of the fourth wasn’t immediately known.
“I was also told that they were unvaccinated,” Osgood said when asked whether three of the teachers were not vaccinated.
The teachers’ deaths come just days before classes start in Broward County, among the country’s largest school districts, and as coronavirus cases surge in Florida and other states, driven by the Delta variant and low vaccination rates. The confluence is reigniting debates over Covid-19 mitigation strategies as a new academic year begins.
Broward County Public Schools has had 138 employees test positive for Covid-19 since August 1, according to the school system’s Covid-19 dashboard, which was updated Thursday. Classes are scheduled to begin next week, according to the school calendar; employees began planning on Wednesday.
The district already had found itself in the headlines in recent weeks for steps taken on mask mandates: Earlier this week the school board voted to maintain a mask mandate approved late last month, despite an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis effectively prohibiting such a requirement in school districts.
The order – the subject of several lawsuits – required the state’s health and education departments to make rules giving parents, not schools, the ability to choose whether their children should wear masks.
CNN’s Dakin Andone contributed to this report.