School Board Member: Require Employees To Get Covid Vaccine

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A school board member in a Mississippi school district says he is planning to propose making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all employees.

Natchez Adams School District board member Phillip West told The Natchez Democrat that the rise in delta variant cases throughout the state is “a public health issue that is becoming a public health crisis” and that “it’s our duty and responsibility to make sure we protect our students and employees.”

School for the Natchez Adams School District begins on Monday. West said he will speak on the proposal during a board meeting on Tuesday.

Other board members told the Democrat they had no comment or did not reply to messages asking their thoughts on the idea.

Department of Education spokesperson Corie Jones told The Associated Press on Friday she had not heard of any similar proposals in other Mississippi districts.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance this week calling all schools to require masks for students, teachers and visitors amid a surge of new coronavirus cases. Mississippi is among the least vaccinated states in the nation.

Some districts, including Moss Point and Gulfport, have announced they will require masks. Others said they will only do so if ordered by the governor.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Tuesday he does not plan to issue a mask mandate for schools, even as the coronavirus vaccination rate in Mississippi remains among the lowest in the nation.

Mississippi Department of Health officials said they are recommending schools follow the CDC guidance, but they do not have the power to enforce that districts require masks.

Meanwhile, Mississippi's healthcare system is already feeling increased stress from new COVID-19 cases, in particular the highly contagious delta variant. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Mississippi was up to 823 on Thursday, compared with 180 on July 7.

On Friday, the Clarion Ledger reported that all 92 beds in the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s intensive care unit, the state’s largest, are full.