(AFP)— Schools in a county in the southeastern US state of Georgia will pay US$1,000 bonuses to staff who are vaccinated against COVID-19 in a bid to protect themselves from the resurgent pandemic, authorities said.
With that incentive county officials said they hope to avoid the “numerous disruptions that were encountered in public education over the past two school years due to a global pandemic.”
“Last year was a challenge like no other for our students and our staff members as we were constantly having to adjust to the presence and possibilities of COVID-19 on our campuses,” Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis said in a statement.
“Our students and our families deserve and expect predictability and stability in their learning, and keeping our buildings open and supporting our employees’ health are paramount to these efforts,” she added.
The Henry county school district, southeast of the city of Atlanta, will make a US$1,000 payment to those of its nearly 6,000 employees who are fully vaccinated now or who will be vaccinated by September 30 with one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine or both doses from Pfizer or Moderna.
The money will come from a federal program to curb the coronavirus in elementary and secondary schools, education officials said.
“We know that vaccines are still the number one defence and preventative measure to help mitigate and stop the spread of this community-crippling virus,” Davis said.
The United States is experiencing a sharp uptick in coronavirus cases due primarily to the more contagious Delta variant.
New cases of COVID-19 have increased fourfold in recent weeks, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins said Sunday.
Just under 60 per cent of the US population over age 12 is fully vaccinated, according to official figures.
But there are wide disparities from one region to another as vaccination took on a political tint under former president Donald Trump, with the liberal north and east more open to getting a shot and the conservative south more wary.
In Henry county, infections increased by 40 per cent in the last seven days, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The top US health authority says the Delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox and — critically — that breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals, though still rare, may be as transmissible as unvaccinated cases.