▶ Watch Video: School mask debate rages in Florida as COVID cases surge

Four educators in Broward County, Florida, died from COVID-19 in a span of 24 hours, as school officials continue to push back against Governor Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates in schools. At least three of the teachers who died were unvaccinated, CBS Miami reports. 

“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,” Broward Teachers Union president Anna Fusco told CBS Miami. 

The news comes just days after Broward County’s school board pushed back against DeSantis’ order, voting 8 to 1 to require students to wear masks in school, arguing that the decision would keep students and teachers safe. Under the new rules, students and staff with legitimate concerns or health issues can opt out. 

DeSantis’ order, signed into effect on July 30, was framed as a way to “protect parents’ freedom to choose,” and threatened school officials who enforced mask mandates with a loss of funding and withheld pay. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that K-12 students and staff returning for in-person learning should wear masks as part of a “layered prevention strategy,” especially since children under 12 do not yet qualify for vaccination. 

Fusco said the news of the teachers’ deaths was “extremely frightening,” but sadly too common. “I hear this every day. Whether in Broward or elsewhere,” she said.

As schools around the country prepare for students to fill the halls again, Fusco said she’s grateful for the county school board’s decision. 

“We got a little bit of relief, keeping mask protocols, hand sanitizer, extra sanitizing,” she told CBS Miami. 

With the Delta variant surging through the U.S., especially in the South, Florida has been breaking records for new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.