Story at a glance
- The Miami-Dade County Public School systems announced about 600 employees have the coronavirus.
- Classes in the county are set to begin remotely, eventually returning to in-class sessions.
About 600 employees within the Miami-Dade County Public School System (M-DCPS) have tested positive for the coronavirus over a span of five months.
The Miami-Herald reports that M-DCPS spokeswoman Natalia Zea confirmed on Wednesday that the district’s risk department reported 578 cases by tracking claims made to insurance companies from March to July of 2020. The M-DCPS is the largest employer in the county. Back in July superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s staff initially said that only about 100 employees were infected, though this claim is now disputed.
This follows an announcement from the United Teachers of Dade that confirmed a member school workers had died from a COVID-19 infection.
The president of the union American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1184, Phyllis LeFlore, told The Herald that she counted more than a dozen coronavirus cases among her bargaining unit, which includes maintenance workers, bus drivers and food service workers in the district.
“They’re bringing it from home and they’re bringing it into the workplace,” she said. “They’re not getting it from the school system.”
Schools in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties decided to close in mid-March to prevent spread of the coronavirus.
While the goal for the county is to eventually have children return to live instruction, public health conditions are still too hazardous to send children back to school. Carvalho wrote that students of the M-DCPS will begin the year remotely on Aug. 31. By Oct. 5, he hopes to allow some students to return to the physical classroom.
“M-DCPS staff will continue monitoring the pandemic and working with medical experts to ensure the health and safety of students and staff throughout the year,” Carvalho’s letter read.
Miami-Dade is the county with the second largest number of coronavirus cases in the U.S., with 148,093 confirmed cases. It trails behind Los Angeles County in California.
Florida has struggled with controlling the virus spread since new cases began rising in May, turning the southernmost part of the state into a virus epicenter. The state has recorded more than 620,000 cases, with 4,555 new cases reported as of Aug. 20, according to health department data.
Despite these persistent trends, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a strong ally to President Trump, has not formally issued a mask mandate and is advocating to reopen schools for in-person learning.
During a recent press conference, DeSantis made headlines when he compared reopening schools to the Navy SEAL-led operation to kill terrorist Osama bin Ladin.
“Just as the SEALs surmounted obstacles to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, so too would the Martin County School system find a way to provide parents with a meaningful choice of in-person instruction or continued distance learning,” he said. “All-in, all the time.”
Prior to this, his administration ordered all public schools to open school doors to students at least five days each week.
Reopening schools has been largely an experiment for all academic institutions but has ultimately seen more fast-acting outbreaks within the first weeks of reopening. Outbreaks have occurred in classroom settings ranging from K-12 schools in Mississippi to colleges, like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Updated Aug.23 at