A 30-year teaching veteran was one of 15 Miami-Dade County public school staff members who died of COVID-19 in just 10 days as Florida continues to reel amid the continuing, overwhelming toll of an unfettered pandemic.
“It’s a tremendous loss,” said a school official, referring to the death of longtime teacher Abe Coleman, 55, earlier this week.
“The number of lives that he impacted are countless. So many young men had the benefit of him intervening in their lives and pointing them in the right direction,” Marcus Bright, who works with a local education program 5000 Role Models of Excellence, told NBC-6 TV.
Coleman taught at Holmes Elementary School in Miami’s Liberty City area, which is a primarily Black neighborhood with 42% of the population living below the poverty line.
Local education officials haven’t released the identities of the other teachers or staff members.
“The loss of any of our employees is one that is always profoundly felt as every member of this organization is considered a part of Miami-Dade County Public Schools family,” the district said in a statement. “We extend our hearts and prayers to the loved ones of those whose lives have recently been lost.”
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has dismissed the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations and signed an executive order banning mask mandates at schools, issued no comment on the astounding death rate in the county schools system.
The state Health Department was sued earlier this week by the Florida Center for Government Accountability and Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith for not providing detailed, daily statistics about Florida’s surging COVID-19 cases in violation of the state’s open-records laws.
The suit argues that the DeSantis administration is deliberately manipulating COVID-19 data to make it appear the problem was not as dire as it actually is.
“The DeSantis administration has consistently refused to release COVID-related public records, which not only hurts our efforts to contain this deadly virus, it is also unlawful,” Smith said in a statement after the suit was filed.
“That’s why we’re suing them — to obtain the public records our constituents are entitled to under the Florida Constitution and to force the state to resume daily COVID dashboard reporting and avoid future litigation on this matter.”
Florida is in the grip of its deadliest wave of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. As of mid-August, the state was averaging 244 deaths a day, eclipsing the previous peak of 227 a year ago. The state reported 2,345 deaths and over 129,000 cases this week. Hospitals have had to rent refrigerated units to store bodies.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, however, eased slightly over the past two weeks from 17,000 to 14,200.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.