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Numbers decrease as precautions remain in place

By Dawn Burleigh

As schools announced their policies for the coming week after Governor Abbott announced the lifting of the mask mandate and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100 percent starting Wednesday, March 10, 2021, the numbers released this week show a significant drop in coronavirus cases.

A year after the COVID Crisis began, the virus is still here and precautions are strongly suggested as Abbott said, “it is a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety and the safety of others. With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny.”

Orange County has 359 active cases of COVID, which is 397 less than the previous week. Over 500 persons were reported as recovered from the virus.

While there was an increase of four for the number hospitalized and on ventilators, there were new deaths were associated with the disease.

The grand total of cases since March 2020, is now at 7,644.

For those who think they may have been exposed or have the coronavirus, Exceptional Emergency Center is offering testing and treatment without an appointment. It offers contactless registration at EER24.com.

Texas State Teachers Association is concerned what the changes will mean for funding for schools.

“We believe the hold-harmless decision issued by Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders could be a positive step in funding for our public schools, but there may be a catch,” Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina said in a statement. “For districts to receive full funding for the remainder of the spring semester, regardless of attendance losses, they will have to “maintain or increase current levels of on-campus attendance.”

Molina continued, “What if there is a spike in COVID-19 cases after spring break or because of Gov. Abbott’s decision to end the mask mandate and relax other safety standards? Districts that could lose on-campus attendance to online learning because their communities become COVID hotspots shouldn’t be penalized for attendance losses either.

“The hold-harmless provision must apply to all school districts for the remainder of the spring semester. Teachers and other school employees in all our districts have performed heroically during the pandemic, often at risk to their own health, and need all the resources the state can provide. Texas voters agree.

“In a recent bipartisan poll commissioned by TSTA, a majority of likely Texas voters (59 percent) said public schools need more funding, not cuts.”

FEMA is working to speed up vaccinations by supporting states as they open community vaccine centers across the country. Vaccine allocations to states, tribes and territories continue to increase. This week, in addition to Pfizer and Moderna, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is being delivered to three federal pilot Community Vaccination Centers in California, Florida and Texas.

FEMA developed a Civil Rights Checklist to assist state, tribal and territorial partners in understanding and fulfilling their obligations to provide access to vaccine-related programs, activities and services in a nondiscriminatory manner. The agency is also coordinating translation and interpretation services.

Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina also released the following statement on educators getting vaccine priority:

The Texas State Teachers Association applauds President Biden for acting where Gov. Abbott had failed and ordering all school employees and child care workers to receive priority for COVID-19 vaccines.

Acting on Biden’s initiative, the Texas Department of State Health Services today directed vaccine providers in Texas to include K-12 school employees and child care workers on the priority list for their vaccine outreach programs.

In addition, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has ordered pharmacies participating in the vaccination program to reserve unfilled vaccination slots for school employees and child care workers for the remainder of March.

This is a big win for educators, and it also is a win for their students and their families because it will help to make our school buildings and communities safer.

Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced, on Thursday, that the State of Texas will provide a “hold harmless” to Texas school systems for the rest of the 2020-2021 academic school year only. This means funding will be made available to school systems in Texas that have seen enrollment and attendance declines because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as long as they maintain or increase current levels of on-campus attendance. Districts will be funded on attendance in line with projections made prior to the public health crisis. This will ensure that school systems in Texas can retain their teachers for the 2020-21 school year for whom they originally budgeted. This final semester of hold harmless means districts have been held harmless for three consecutive semesters — Spring Semester of the 2019-20 academic year and the entirety of the 2020-21 academic year.

“As more districts return to in-person instruction, we are ensuring that schools are not financially penalized for declines in attendance due to COVID-19,” said Abbott. “Providing a hold harmless for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year is a crucial part of our state’s commitment to supporting our school systems and teachers and getting more students back in the classroom.”

“My goal is to get all of our students back in the classroom and this hold harmless funding will ensure our public schools can complete the school year and continue to bring students back to campuses for in-person learning. As always, we are grateful to those teachers across the state who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic to keep our students on track,” said Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.

“The State of Texas is committed to getting more students back into the classroom for in-person instruction and fully funding our schools – despite challenges that occurred as a result of COVID-19. I fully support the decision to provide necessary funding and maintain our commitment to Texas schools,” said Speaker Dade Phelan.

“The legislature was already dedicated to fulfilling the commitments made in House Bill 3 from last session. The financial stability provided by this hold harmless will further support our schools in their efforts to help our students meet the challenges brought on by COVID-19,” said Senator Larry Taylor.

“It would be an understatement to say that Texas families have been negatively affected by the COVID environment. And perhaps those most affected have been our public school students who have had to educate remotely or not at all. Texas should do everything possible to get these students back to school but school districts must not be penalized financially for the absence of these students. That is why this hold harmless provision is a financial must for Texas school districts,” said Representative Harold Dutton.

Data has shown throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that schools are safe. School systems in Texas must follow public health guidance issued by TEA, which establishes a variety of effective virus mitigation strategies for schools. Based on this guidance, school districts are widely employing a range of measures including masks, screening practices, improvements in ventilation, the use of rapid COVID-19 tests, and improved hygiene procedures. Additionally, all Texas teachers and school staff are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas.

In normal times, schools are funded based on the students enrolled and the daily attendance on campus. This year, TEA prioritized flexibility to ensure essential funding support for school systems, by providing full funding based on daily attendance, whether the attendance was in-person or remote. The hold harmless, which was previously provided in the first semester of the school year, allocates funding above the statutory guaranteed level of funding for students who are not enrolled, or for students who attend (even if remotely) less frequently. For the current second semester, it is being provided as long as on-campus attendance participation rates do not decline or those rates otherwise remain high (at least 80 percent).

TEA has published on its Coronavirus resource website documents that note the baseline on-campus attendance participation rates of every Texas school system in the fall of 2020.

 

See also Orange County opens vaccination schedule to all