I’m a Teacher Who Almost Died From COVID-19—And My School Is Fighting the Ban on Mask Mandates

Mask mandates are not only essential for immunocomprised people like myself—they’re also a choice between life or death.

9/21/2021 1:16:00 AM

Stefanie Minguell, a COVID survivor and second grade teacher in Florida's Broward County, almost died of COVID-19 and is immunocomprised. When she teaches in the classroom, she’s forced to choose between her health and her students.

Mask mandates are not only essential for immunocomprised people like myself—they’re also a choice between life or death.

Minguell, who survived a severe case of COVID-19 last spring, shares her story, explains why enforcing masks in schools is so important, and discusses the fraught nature of returning to the office for some essential workers and immunocompromised people.

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Clickhereto read all of the stories.We left school in March of 2020 for spring break and never went back. At the time, I was already sick. I had a cold; I was coughing and wheezing. My mother was also coming down with COVID-like symptoms. She went to get tested and it turned out she was COVID positive, so she quarantined in her house. But she started to get progressively worse.

My husband and I got tested, but because I was coughing and wheezing so much, the hospital immediately admitted me. That same day, my mother was hospitalized. I turned out to be negative for COVID so the doctors treated me for asthma and sent me home. But six days later, I started running a high fever and was getting disoriented. My husband and I went back to the hospital and they admitted me again. This time, I tested positive for COVID. I believe I contracted COVID during my first hospital visit. headtopics.com

I blacked out within a day or two of getting to the hospital; my oxygen level went below 80 percent and doctors had to put me on a ventilator. I was on a ventilator for 21 days. To this day, my voice isn’t the same—it's still very hoarse and I run out of air quickly.

I thought I was going to die. I was begging the forces that be to help me. When I was on the ventilator and my health was declining, my mother, who had recovered, advocated for me (using the local news) to get me experimental treatments. Thankfully, those treatments worked for me.

When I woke up, I was paralyzed. When you're on a ventilator for three weeks and you don't move, you lose all muscle mass. All I could do was move my head right to left and lift my fingers. I was able to FaceTime with my family from the hospital using my iPad, but because I couldn't move my arms, a nurse would have to come in and press the"on" button. Through physical therapy, I slowly was able to lift my arms and, eventually, sit up. Then, I had to go to rehab to learn how to use a walker and a wheelchair before I was able to go home. It was really the worst nightmare you could imagine.

I came home from the hospital in June of 2020. I spent the whole summer in rehab and in physical, occupational, and speech therapy. In August, when it was time to go back to school, I thoughtwhat am I going to do?Thankfully, the school district started off the year virtually, so I was able to teach from home. But a few months into the school year, they made all the teachers go back. Luckily, our union, the headtopics.com

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American Federation of Teachers,fought to let immunocompromised teachers, including me, continue to teach from home. I taught the entire school year from home. It was such a relief, especially because I was recovering. If I had not been allowed to work remotely, I likely would have had to leave my job and I would have lost my pay and insurance. That would have been devastating, especially considering how many doctors [visits], copays, and medications I had to pay for. Teaching remotely was great. I could take the focus off of my own woes and focus on the students. It gave me strength and courage to get through my recovery.

When the current school year [started to] roll around, we had no idea what things would look like. The state decided that we had to go back to in-person classes. Then, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a ban on mask mandates for public schools, meaning public schools were not allowed to enforce a mask-wearing policy.

Read more: Marie Claire »

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