Here are some of the top stories from the past week from NBC 6 News:
Endemic vs. Herd Immunity: How Close Are We to Reaching the End of the Pandemic?
With the omicron variant spreading rapidly throughout the United States and South Florida, some are wondering whether "herd immunity" could help end the COVID-19 pandemic.
Herd immunity is defined as the indirect protection of an infectious disease that happens when the vast majority of the population is vaccinated or has developed immunity through a previous infection.
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According to Mayo Clinic, 65.2% of the state's population is fully vaccinated. Florida's seven-day moving average for daily cases has risen to over 50,000 in recent days after it had dropped below 1,300 as recently as last month.
Although more people are being infected with COVID-19, South Florida-based infectious disease specialists say achieving herd immunity at this point in the pandemic is unlikely.
"We still get some cellular defense cells that will help us out but I don’t know for sure it will be enough to create the herd immunity we’re always talking about," said Dr. Paula Eckardt, chief of infectious disease at Memorial Healthcare System.
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Miami-Dade, Broward Public Schools Face Staffing Challenges Due to Virus Surge
The omicron variant surge is creating a substantial staffing challenge for the Miami-Dade and Broward public school districts.
Over the past two days, Miami-Dade County Public Schools have been short about a thousand teachers each day compared to these same two days last year, immediately after the winter break.
“I do believe that the vast majority of the individuals who are out are either diagnosed with COVID, particularly omicron, or they have a relative with whom they have contact with that was diagnosed and they are quarantining for the recommended number of days according to the CDC, which is five days,” said Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
Carvalho, making an example of himself, taught a class Tuesday at Jackson Senior High School, where he began his career 31 years ago. He said every available employee who has a teaching certificate is being shifted into the classroom.
“Every single student is receiving instruction, in some cases, in a less than ideal situation, every single student is appropriately supervised and that’s why I’m here,” Carvalho said. “It’s both symbolic for me and the system at this time, it tells everyone that nothing is too small or too big for any one of us.”
Monday, more than 2,100 Miami-Dade teachers called in sick, and Tuesday, it was more than 1,700.
Archdiocese of Miami Updates Mask Requirements for Mass, Church Gatherings
The Archdiocese of Miami announced Monday that anyone attending mass and/or church gatherings, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to use masks.
“Given the rapid spread of the omicron variant of COVID, I ask you to resume requiring the use of facemasks, even for the vaccinated, during the celebration of the liturgy and other parish functions as well as maintain proper social distancing,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski.
Proper social distancing should also be maintained to help mitigate the risk of infection.
The updated guidance comes after a substantial increase in positive cases per 100,000 persons in the tri-county area since mid-December.
“Even if as some allege that masks are not totally effective, they do help. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, we have said that the measures we have taken only mitigate but not eliminate the risk of infection. The research of the CDC has validated the benefit of masks with the N95 mask being the most effective,” the archbishop said.
Repairs Complete on Famous Key West Buoy After Fire, Suspect Surrenders
Restoration has been completed on Key West’s Southernmost Point marker, one of the most photographed landmarks in the Florida Keys, following damage from a fire intentionally set early New Year’s Day.
City public works staff finished repainting the marker Thursday night. It designates the southernmost land point in the continental United States, a replica of a marine navigational buoy with red, yellow, black and white stripes.
“The Southernmost Point is one of the most iconic spots in the Florida Keys,” Key West Mayor Teri Johnston said. “People come from around the world in order to be photographed in front of this statue.”
Key West police have announced charges against two men suspected of torching a Christmas tree next to the landmark buoy.
David B. Perkins, Jr., 22, of Leesburg, Florida, and Skylar Rae Jacobson, 21, of Henrietta, Texas, face charges of criminal mischief with damages over $1,000. Perkins turned himself in Thursday afternoon at a Monroe County detention facility in the Upper Florida Keys.
The Search for a New Miami-Dade Superintendent Begins
There will be no interim superintendent for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
The school board decided Wednesday in a special meeting that it would move swiftly to hire a new permanent superintendent to replace the outgoing Alberto Carvalho, who has accepted the top job at the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The board opened a seven-day period, starting now, in which anyone interested in the job can apply. The qualifications include teaching and administrative experience, along with at least a master’s degree.
“The truth is we will never, ever find another Alberto Carvalho,” board member Lubby Navarro said during the meeting.
Even those board members who had openly clashed with the superintendent praised Carvalho Wednesday as a transformational leader.
“What a loss, what a terrible loss for our district,” said board member Dr. Marta Perez.
How Long Should a Child Isolate? Guidelines for Broward, Miami-Dade Schools
Omicron is breaking records in Broward County Public Schools.
On Thursday, 5,400 students — a pandemic record — did not join their classmates in school because they had either come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19, or they themselves had tested positive.
So what happens to students in those two categories?
In Broward, children who test positive for COVID-19 are supposed to isolate at home for 10 days. However, if they test negative during that 10-day period and they’re asymptomatic for 24 hours, they can come back to school. Or, if they get a doctor’s note saying they’re not contagious, they can come back to school.
“Trying to make sure that we’re minimizing spread and that we’re taking care of the whole community, so it’s not just the individual, but it’s also the other individuals within that classroom,” said Broward Superintendent Dr. Vickie Cartwright. “Omicron is not selective.”