Teacher Who Received 3 Pfizer Shots, Required Masks in Classroom Hospitalized From COVID

An Oklahoma man said he caught COVID-19 while teaching at college preparatory high school despite receiving three shots of the Pfizer vaccine and requiring students to wear masks.

"No negotiation, no discussion, put it on or leave the room," Ted Hartley told The Oklahoman of his mask policy for students in his algebra class. "That was how we operated until I got sick."

He spoke with the newspaper from a hospital bed at Integris Baptist Medical Center, where he is being treated for complications from COVID-19.

Hartley, 62, is a teacher at Harding Fine Arts Academy, a charter school in Oklahoma City that now requires masks for all students. He said the policy was never in question for him, where he applied a "my classroom, my rules" dictum.

A kidney transplant 10 years ago left Hartley immunocompromised, which resulted in him taking extra precautions in regards to the coronavirus since studies have shown that COVID-19 poses a higher risk for people with compromised immune systems.

mask classroom
A teacher in Oklahoma said he caught COVID-19 while at school despite receiving 3 shots of the Pfizer vaccine and requiring everyone to wear masks in his classroom. This undated stock photo shows face masks on a desk in a school classroom. Getty

Hartley said due to the elevated risk for himself and for his daughter, who also needed a new kidney, he limited his exposure to people outside of work and his household. He said that no one else in his immediate family has tested positive for COVID-19 at this time.

The teacher first developed a fever before a scan conducted at an emergency room showed pneumonia in his lungs, and a subsequent test found he had COVID-19.

Despite the hospital staff working hard to get him a bed in an emergency room, Hartley said it still required a 28-hour wait before one became open for him. He's currently being treated with the antiviral medication remdesivir and sleeping with the aid of an oxygen tube.

Hartley is expected to recover and return home Thursday. His wife told The Oklahoman she is still surprised that he became sick in the first place after "18 months of doing everything we could" to avoid it.

Regina Hartley—a library media specialist—said her husband had even received a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine last month. She credited that extra dose of the vaccine to preventing her husband from getting even more ill from the infection.

Though Hartley said he was "furious" when he learned he was infected, his wife said they supported a return to in-person learning to give a sense of normalcy to both students and teachers.

Ted Hartley is also urging people to get vaccinated.

"Get as many as you need," he said. "I needed three."