State resources are assisting local vaccinations scheduled for school personnel. That’s according to the Florida Department of Health in Monroe County, which told the Keys Weekly on Friday that the state’s Region 7 Incident Management Team is making its way to the Keys to administer shots on Saturday, March 13, for K-12 staff who are 50 years and older.

Per the Monroe County School District and Becky Herrin, communications coordinator for the district’s COVID-19 response, three state-supported events are set for tomorrow in the Upper, Middle and Lower Keys. In total, the state will vaccinate 220 employees who are 50 and older who signed up to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ latest vaccine eligibility requirements have it so only educators 50 and older can get a COVID-19 vaccine. Law enforcement officers and firefighters 50 years and older can also obtain the shot, as well as those 65 and older. 

The state’s vaccination system and eligibility for teachers slightly differ from the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, which the federal government partners with national pharmacies to vaccinate people in the U.S. On March 2, President Joe Biden announced a new directive that all educators and childcare workers — regardless of age — could sign up for an appointment at over 9,000 pharmacy locations. 

Publix, Winn Dixie and CVS are among the pharmacies participating in the federal program. No CVS pharmacies are administering vaccines yet in Monroe County, but some educators, including Coral Shores High School teacher Jennifer Webb, have found success on the mainland. She said she received the vaccine last weekend at the CVS Pharmacy in Homestead. 

“I am so excited that vaccines finally became available for all teachers,” she told the Weekly recently. “I will feel so much more comfortable being at school every day after I get my second shot and it takes full effect.” 

Nonetheless, teachers 50 and younger who want the vaccine are vying for appointments with other eligible groups. And in just a few weeks, Monroe County students will have the choice to return to in-person instruction five days a week as opposed to following an A/B schedule. 

The option for students to return to school full time was mandated by an order by Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran last week to the Monroe County School District. Corcoran said that an emergency order by the state provided for three learning modalities between in-person, virtual and innovative. For those choosing in-person, the order requires the school district must “continue to open brick and mortar schools at least five days a week for all students” who select that choice.

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On March 29, parents of students in grades 6-12 will be given the option to return to five days a week. 

The school district was following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, which recommended administrators work with local public health officials to assess the level of risk based on the level of community transmission. It recommends they examine the number of cases per 100,000 in the past seven days. 

CDC indicators deem more than 100 new cases per 100,000 in the past seven days as “high transmission,” which is where Monroe County currently sits.  

“Monroe’s rate of COVID cases per 100,000 people remains in the CDC’s ‘High Transmission Red’ level, warranting strict mitigation efforts,” Monroe County School Board Member Sue Woltanski stated in an op-ed this week. “It is this data, concern about more new infectious variants and recent evidence of transmission within our Monroe classrooms, that led our local health department to continue to advise the A/B schedule, which allows appropriate social distancing.”

As for pharmacies offering vaccines to educators, Publix says it will administer shots to teachers, school staff, bus drivers and childcare workers. Publix offers the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shot. Those wanting to sign up for the Moderna vaccine can do so on Monday, March 15 at 7 a.m. Sign-ups for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will take place Wednesday, March 17 at 7 a.m. More information is available at publix.com/covid-vaccine/florida.

Winn Dixie said it’s also following guidelines to vaccinate all K-12 personnel. Stores on North Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West and at MM 92 in Tavernier are taking appointments. Visit winndixie.com/pharmacy/covid-vaccine/covid19-vaccine-availability. Winn Dixie says it’s administering the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

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