School is less than a week away for kids in Broward County, Fla., but there's sad news before the academic year even kicks off. Per WPLG, the Broward Teachers Union has reported that three teachers and an educational assistant all died of COVID between Tuesday and Wednesday, while an additional teaching assistant is in the hospital with the virus. "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," union President Anna Fusco says, per CBS Miami. Fusco notes that three of the four who died were unvaccinated, with the status of the fourth unclear. One of those three was "on the road" to getting the shot but hadn't yet received the OK from her doctor, Fusco says, noting that the individual "was really looking forward to getting it in the next couple weeks."
The news comes against the backdrop of tensions between the Broward school district and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. At the end of July, the district unanimously approved a mask mandate for students, teachers, and staff in all of its schools, but it later reversed that decision after DeSantis threatened to withhold funding. On Tuesday, however, after fielding hundreds of written comments and speeches from residents, the Broward County School Board voted again, and the mask mandate once more passed, this time with a vote of 8-1, with exemptions for certain health or safety reasons, reports CNN. DeSantis, meanwhile, isn't backing down, though he did pull back Thursday on a threat to dock board members' pay if they imposed a mask mandate, reports the Hill. "We believe the parents rather than the government should be making this decision," he says, per CBS. The first day of classes for Broward children is Wednesday. (Read more Broward County stories.)