197 Vaccinated San Antonio ISD Employees Got COVID In August
Two-thirds of the San Antonio Independent School District employees who tested positive for the coronavirus in August were fully vaccinated. Out of the 285 cases staff members reported to SAISD, 197 were breakthrough cases, according to district records.
SAISD administrators presented the data to trustees during Monday’s board meeting, hours after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced a second lawsuit challenging the district’s authority to require employees show proof they are vaccinated by Oct. 15.
“Fortunately, the vast majority of these individuals do not experience the extreme symptoms that those who are not fully vaccinated are experiencing when they are positive,” Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Toni Thompson told trustees.
“But it also shows you that for those who have been vaccinated for around six months, that they're the ones that are most often showing up as positive again, which says something about the need to have access to boosters,” Thompson said.
District officials estimate 90% of employees are vaccinated. More than half of the employees with breakthrough cases were vaccinated in January, February or March.
SAISD’s records are more detailed than many districts because it organized vaccine clinics for employees last spring and offers extensive weekly testing for students and staff.
SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said Monday the high rate of breakthrough cases is further proof his employee vaccine mandate is needed.
“This variant is stronger than ever. It is more effective at even breaking through our vaccinations,” Martinez said. “Cases are in our schools, even with vaccinations, and we have students that are unvaccinated. Trustees, that is not a good combination for ensuring the safety of both our staff and our children.”
“Under our leadership, under our teachers and our principals, we are not going to allow our children and staff to be put at risk. I'm sorry, we're not,” he added. “This is not about a fight. This is about: we're seeing what is happening. And so imagine if the staff weren't vaccinated. Imagine what could happen. Imagine the spread.”
Martinez is named as a defendant in the state’s lawsuit against SAISD. Trustees voted 6-1 Monday in favor of a resolution supporting his decision to implement a mask mandate and the staff vaccine requirement.
“I think it's just important that Pedro Martinez not stand alone, that it is clear that we stand with him. And we stand for what we think is an action to protect the health of our children,” former board president Patti Radle said before the vote. “It's not a political thing. Health is not political.”
District 2 Trustee Alicia Sebastian was the only board member to vote against the resolution. She said she and her children are vaccinated, but it was a difficult decision for her to make.
“We're getting into a very funny space of controlling people that I am personally not comfortable with,” Sebastian said, adding that she’s concerned the vaccine mandate could increase the staffing shortfalls the district is already experiencing.
“I suspect that something of this magnitude will cause extra stresses on our department leads,” Sebastian said.
Texas first sued SAISD over its staff vaccine mandate in August, but the lawsuit was invalidated when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully authorized the Pfizer vaccine. Paxton filed a new lawsuit in September after Gov. Greg Abbott issued a new executive order barring government entities from mandating any coronavirus vaccines.