15-year-old on ventilator after COVID diagnosis; Brevard Public Schools reacts

Last May, the Brevard Public School Board voted 4-1 to lift the mask mandate it had put in place the year prior for it’s elementary students. Board member Jennifer Jenkins was the on vote against lifting the mandate. She stated she did not feel comfortable predicting the future of what August would look like when school starts again, putting our students at risk. Now August is starting to look pretty bad as Florida leads the nation in Covid-19 cases, ICU’s are full, and a sudden increase of children are contracting the disease.

“My reservation is just personally is I don’t feel comfortable assuming what it’ll look like in August. I don’t feel comfortable putting potential students and their families at risk if they choose not to be vaccinated,” Jennifer Jenkins.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now strongly endorses masks for children over the age of 2 stating, During the COVID-19 pandemic, use of face masks should continue until the child or adolescent is considered fully vaccinated – two weeks after receipt of the final COVID-19 vaccine dose.

A Florida family is desperate for a miracle after their loved one, a 15-year-old girl, is now in critical condition, fighting COVID-19.

“Just seeing her like that is really heartbreaking,” Tomas Velasquez, the teens brother.

His sister, 15-year old Paulina Velasquez, is on a ventilator.

Her brother can’t even visit because of COVID restrictions.

“I just want to tell people: This virus is not a joke. It’s a real thing,” he said. “Before this, my sister was 100% healthy, 15-year old girl, always wore her mask, never took it off in public, and this still managed to happen.”

But inside of the intensive care room is Paulina Velasquez’s mother, Agnieszka Velasquez.

“Today, she’s here next to me,” Agnieszka Velasquez said. “I talk to her every day and every night.”

Paulina Velasquez is in a medically induced coma. The usually bubbly teen deteriorated fast after testing positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago. She could barely walk herself into the ER.
“They said they have to put her under the ventilator, and that was the worst thing I could ever experience. Why my baby? Why not me?” her mother said.

Agnieszka Velasquez is also fighting a milder case of COVID, despite being vaccinated months ago.

The 15-year-old had not yet received the shot.

Teen on ventilator after getting COVID-19 days before planned vaccination
Paulina Velasquez, 15, is on a ventilator after contracting COVID-19. Just a week and a half ago, she was a happy, healthy teenager looking forward to her sophomore year of high school.(Source: GoFundMe)

“They told me, also, ‘if you leave, you can’t come back.’ So I’m not leaving anywhere. I have all my vitamins here. I said, ‘we came together; we’ll go back home together,'” the girl’s mother said.

Her brother has faith in his sister, as well.

“I can just feel her in my heart, and I know she’s gonna get through this,” he said.

Masks mandates have been highly controversial in Florida despite the guidance given by the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics saying they are necessary; especially for the unvaccinated population.

Group like Moms for Liberty, led by former BPS Board member Tina Deschovich have been very vocal at school board meetings demanding a lift for the mandate. But elected officials have been conflicted on the issue.

Brevard County Commissioner Bryan Lober pushed twice for a county-wide mask mandate, but lost that vote 4-1 with much backlash from his base. Now running for re-election, he has been silent on the issue.

State Representative Randy Fine has also come under attack from his conservative base for relentlessly pushing the vaccine, although stating he doesn’t support a mandate.

Many tough decisions will have to be made as the virus is Florida is spiraling out of control. Health First has put a hold on all elective surgeries and is now setting up overflow tents as cases in Brevard have skyrocketed. They report that their ICU’s and Emergency Rooms are full as cases have quadrupled over the last few weeks.

Governor Desantis has spoken directly on the matter, “There’s been talk about potentially people advocating at the federal level, imposing compulsory masks on kids,” DeSantis said. “We’re not doing that in Florida, OK? We need our kids to breathe.”

Desantis has stated he is prepared to call a special legislative session to pre-empt school boards from implementing mask mandates.

“There shouldn’t be any coercive mandates on our schools. There’s going to be, it looks like, a campaign in Washington to try to change that,” DeSantis said. “At the end of the day, we gotta start putting our kids first. Is it really comfortable, is it really healthy for them to be muzzled?” 

Brevard School Board Chair Misty Belford responded.

“It’s a huge mess and once again it’s putting us in the middle of things,” Belford said. “If the state is going to be so boisterous to say that we cannot do something, then they should take ownership of that.” 

If the federal government and the state end up giving conflicting directives on mask mandates in schools, “we (the School Board) would have to sit down with our legal team and get recommendations at that point,” Belford said. 

While some details about COVID-19 prevention will be discussed at next Thursday’s school board meeting — the last scheduled before the new school year starts in August — the board has no current plans to revisit the mask policy, Belford said. The district’s mask requirements were rescinded at the end of the previous school year in June. 

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