5 January 2021
Gov. Greg Abbott
1100 Congress Ave, 2S.1
Austin, TX 78701
Dear Governor Abbott:
Many school districts in Texas are preparing to return to in-person instruction in the next few weeks, even as new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations reach record numbers statewide. In my district, the City of El Paso Department of Public Health has recommended teachers and children return to schools for in-person instruction beginning January 19, which is less than two weeks from today.
As of this week, COVID-19 patients account for more than 20% of available hospital beds in the state, which is well above the 15% threshold you designated in October which would trigger a rollback of reopening plans under your executive order GA-32. Districts have implemented varying mitigation policies in response to the absence of concrete rules from the Texas Education Agency, leaving many school employees to report they feel little or no effort has been made to keep them safe.
This creates an imminent crisis for employees preparing to return to fully-staffed school campuses with the pandemic at its highest recorded level. You agreed in December that teachers are frontline workers and should be “near the front of the line” in receiving the vaccine. It is time to put your words into action.
The current Phase 1B definition released by the Department of State Health Services does NOT include early access for teachers and school staff who do not already meet the general age and medical history criteria under Phase 1B. As we enter the most dangerous and unprecedented phase of the pandemic, it is imperative that all school employees who are required to return to campus must be provided with the opportunity to be immunized against the virus.
Your office has the final authority over the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in Texas. In consideration of the rapidly approaching start of in-person instruction and the urgent need to safeguard the lives of frontline school employees, I urge you to take immediate action to specifically include all school employees under Phase 1B of the Texas vaccine distribution plan.
My office stands ready to assist in any way possible. Thank you for your continued service.
Georgina C. Pérez