Hays CISD pushes Abbott for higher priority for COVID-19 vaccinations

At the Dec. 14 board meeting, Superintendent Eric Wright announced the district's policy on staff vaccinations and PPE recommendations for the spring semester. (Community Impact staff)
At the Dec. 14 board meeting, Superintendent Eric Wright announced the district's policy on staff vaccinations and PPE recommendations for the spring semester. (Community Impact staff)

At the Dec. 14 board meeting, Superintendent Eric Wright announced the district's policy on staff vaccinations and PPE recommendations for the spring semester. (Community Impact staff)

During its Dec. 14 meeting, the Hays CISD board of trustees unanimously passed a resolution requesting for Gov. Greg Abbott to add public school district personnel to the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel's definition of essential front-line workers prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The panel is responsible for developing and providing vaccine distribution strategies and recommendations to Texas Health Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt. Based on the panel's recommendations, the first batch of Pfizer vaccines—224,250 doses—was distributed to 34 counties this week. Seton Medical Center in the city of Kyle was set to receive 975 doses.

Additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine, as well as doses of the Moderna vaccine, are expected to follow in the coming weeks.

"It is important to make sure that our employees are put on the highest tier possible as well for receiving this vaccine this allocation, and because currently they are not on the highest level or in the top three," HCISD Board President Esperanza Orosco said. "This is something that is being advocated throughout our state."

The resolution's justifications include the impact district employees have on the care, education and nourishment of students, as well as the role they play in the health and safety of communities.

According to Superintendent Eric Wright, HCISD staff will be required to take the vaccine "unless they have a medical reason for not taking it, or if they have a conscientious objection."

During HCISD's board meeting, Wright said the overall rate of infection was low within the district, but he also noted that the week of Dec. 7 saw the largest number of new cases among staff and students to date, with 22 students and 22 staff members reporting positive tests.

"You can see that we probably didn't do a great job, around Thanksgiving holidays, of social distancing, and so we've had a little bit more spread," Wright said. "We know that this is likely to happen again with Christmas and with New Year's Eve coming."

A total of 173 cases—71 staffers and 102 students—have been reported by the district to date. HCISD has 20,436 students as of Dec. 13, and it had roughly 2,500 employees in 2019.

As a contingency plan for further spread of the coronavirus over the holidays, Wright said it would be recommended that HCISD employees visiting or working on a district campus to wear a face shield in addition to a mask.

"That will help us because if they have a mask and a shield on, then we will not have to ask those individuals to quarantine should they come into close contact with a positive case," Savoy told board members.

Wright said new guidelines from TEA and UIL will provide greater flexibility with quarantine protocols beginning Jan. 4.

Under the new guidelines, individuals testing positive for the virus may end their quarantine after 10 days without a test or after seven days with a negative test, according to Wright.

Wright told the board he would send a letter detailing the new policies later this week.
By Warren Brown
Warren joined Community Impact at the beginning of 2020 as the editor of its New Braunfels paper and now reports the news in San Marcos, Buda and Kyle. Warren previously wrote for the Dallas Observer and Fort Worth Weekly and he brings a passion for truth and equality to his reporting.


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