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San Antonio Leaders Ask Gov. Abbott To Include Teachers And Faculty In COVID Vaccine Priority

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Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
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San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff prepare for a nightly COVID-19 briefing in July.

Teachers should be among the first to be vaccinated for COVID-19. That’s the request from San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff in a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott Thursday.

The mayor and judge’s letter asks Gov. Abbott to amend the state’s two vaccine priority tiers, and to include teachers and faculty. The state’s current guidelines on who should be vaccinated first include hospital and clinic workers, first responders, mortuary workers and school nurses.

“School nurses are rightly considered a priority in the Texas vaccination process, but we believe that teachers and faculty should be included in your two frontline tiers,” the letter states. “While school nurses are more likely to interact with students who may be sick, studies have shown that children, teens and young adults are less likely to present with COVID-19 symptoms — making teachers and faculty just as susceptible to the asymptomatic spread of this pandemic.”

Mayor Nirenberg said no one wants to see schools close but the county is in a critical period where more outbreaks are being seen.

“We should be prioritizing teachers and faculty who are on the front line and who spend hours each day in closed classrooms with dozens of students,” Nirenberg said. “The healthy functioning of our schools is critically important to the functioning of our economy.”

Several groups that represent Texas teachers have asked the governor for the same priority designation.

When asked how soon Bexar County could begin to see vaccine deployment, Nirenberg said the first shipment is expected to arrive next week.

Earlier this week, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District issued recommendations that schools return to virtual instruction if possible as cases in Bexar County average more than a 1,000 per day.

Under mandates from the Texas Education Agency, school districts must offer in-person instruction options to families who desire it.

“Because the districts in a large sense have their hands tied because of the TEA guidance we’re also appealing to parents about their own children,” Nirenberg said.

The current local risk for the virus at schools sits at “high” according to Metro Health.

Data from Metro Health lists a total of seven school outbreaks since schools returned to in-person learning. It defines an outbreak as one or more cases of in-school transmission. There have been 1,074 cases of COVID-19 reported among students and staff at Bexar County schools — 664 are students, 260 are teachers and 150 are non-teaching staff.

The letter to the governor also asks that regular testing be available for students, educators and faculty if the state has enough resources from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by congress earlier this year. Their letter notes some local school districts are conducting a pilot program for testing using Community Labs.

A separate testing program has been initiated by the TEA for some schools who wish to opt in.

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