Duval school bus driver says 2 coworkers have died after contracting COVID-19

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On Tuesday, students at Duval County Public Schools will be asked to wear a face covering.

If not, they could be penalized if they do not have a medical exemption. The district in August approved a 90-day mandate after hearing concerns from the public. Students must wear the masks in buses and in classes.

Letrice Bell said she’s been a school bus driver in Duval County for 20 years. She said she feels safer going to work knowing that students will be masking up.

“It’s really been frightening because most of the students do not wear masks,” Bell said.

Two of her coworkers, Bell said, have died after contracting the virus. She said one was a longtime bus driver. The other -- a school bus monitor.

“We’ll feel a little safer because the children will have masks and we are required to wear masks,” Bell said.

As of Monday, 1,960 COVID-19 cases had been reported in Duval County schools, according to the district’s dashboard. Of those cases, 1,741 were students and 219 were staff members.

Luis Medina, who has grandchildren that attend Duval County public schools, believes the choice should be left up to parents.

“I believe that it should not be mandated,” Medina said. “It’s on the parents, pretty much. It’s their decision.”

Shaneatra Nance has a son who attends North Shore Elementary.

“At least knowing he will have his mask on and everybody else is wearing their masks like they’re supposed to -- hopefully that’s minimizing the spread,” Nance said.

Dr. Adriana Cantville is a pediatric physician at UF Health Jacksonville. She believes the mask mandate is a step in the right direction.

“Wearing a mask is not a big ask,” Cantville said. “It’s safe, it’s effective and it will absolutely decrease the transmission of COVID-19.”

Cantville has been on the frontlines during the pandemic. She’s also been on the forefront of the fight to have a mask requirement in schools.

“It’s a big sense of relief that finally this day is here where we know things are effective and safe for kids -- wearing masks is going to be implemented,” Cantville said.

The mandate is set to expire on Dec. 6. Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene can choose to extend the mandate or end the requirement early.

About the Author:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.