By Karli Barnett

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – COVID cases are climbing in Broward County, and with school classrooms reopening to full capacity in about two weeks, some teachers are concerned.

“The numbers are higher than when we closed the schools last year on March 13th,” says Anna Fusco, an elementary teacher and head of the Broward Teachers Union. “It’s mind-blowing that, when we want to put in protocols and procedures, we’ve got certain elected officials that want to come in and override what’s for the good of all in our own particular school district and our own county.”

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Just last week, Broward County Schools voted to have masks required in school. However, shortly after, Governor Ron DeSantis made an executive order to prevent any mask mandates. Otherwise, he threatened the state could withhold funding from that school district.

“This isn’t something there to harm. This is something there to help,” Fusco says about masks. “And our governor putting a narrative out there that this is a negative and having people feed into it is very disheartening.”

The Broward School Board says they will follow the Governor’s order, and masks will not be required.

In a statement, they say in part:

“Safety remains our highest priority. The District will advocate for all eligible students and staff to receive vaccines and strongly encourage masks to be worn by everyone in schools. The District will also work to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, including frequent cleaning and disinfecting of our schools, physical distancing, hand washing, and staying home when sick.”

According to the CDC, Broward County currently has a 17.25% positivity rate.
Cases up by about 50% in seven days.

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“Unfortunately, Dade and Broward County lead the nation in hospitalizations,” says Broward Mayor Steve Geller.

Broward Health, system-wide, says they had 247 COVID patients Monday, which is 141 more than last week.

Children are among those impacted.

Mayor Geller says seven children are in the hospital at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. As of July 29th, two were in the ICU.

“The number had increased from 36 in June to 190 children going to the emergency room for COVID,” says the Mayor.

Fusco says she wishes the Broward School Board would challenge the Governor’s order and believes with this recent spike, more precautions are better

“It’s for safety,” she says. “Just like when they wear their ID badge or when they wear proper uniforms exposing or when they aren’t exposing and wearing inappropriate clothes. There’s lots of reasons why we have mandates and protocols and procedures. It’s for the safety and health of the students in our public school system.”

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To deal with the volume of testing, Broward County is opening three more test sites next week at Tradewinds Park, Markham Park, and CB Smith Park.

Karli Barnett