Over 5,000 Students in Florida School District Are in Isolation or Quarantine Due to COVID
One school district in Tampa, Florida has an outstanding 5,599 students and 316 staff members in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19.
The Hillsborough County Public School District (HCPS) — which is the seventh-largest in the country — announced on Monday that they have record-breaking numbers of students and staff exposed to COVID. They are either isolating or in quarantine, and "isolation refers to individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 while quarantine refers to those who have had close contact with a positive case," the district explained.
The school board has called for an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss potential safety measures moving forward "including mandatory face coverings for all students and staff."
HCPS has nearly 224,000 students across elementary school, middle school, high school and technical colleges, per the website.
"We must continue safety practices community wide as we work to combat this virus," HCPS Superintendent Addison Davis tweeted on Saturday, at the time reporting 4,477 students and 289 staff members were in isolation.
Davis told MSNBC the district is requiring that everyone at the schools wear a mask unless a parent chooses to opt-out. Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order on July 30 that gave parents, not school officials, the right to decide if their children wear masks in the classroom. DeSantis has threatened to stop paying school board members and superintendents who defy his ban on mask mandates.
"We're gonna make sure we still follow every statutory requirement, all the legal ramifications," Davis said, according to Today. "But at the same time show that sensitivity with COVID in our community and put mitigation strategies in order to be successful."
Miami-Dade County Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho oversees the fourth-largest school district in the U.S., and last week, in response to DeSantis' threats regarding paychecks, he told CBS Miami, "At no point shall I allow my decision to be influenced by a threat to my paycheck, a small price to pay considering the gravity of this issue and the potential impact to the health and well-being of our students and dedicated employees."
The HCPS' announcement follows another school district in Florida's loss of three teachers who all died from COVID-19 within a 24-hour period.
The three teachers — who were not vaccinated — came from two elementary schools in Broward County. Janice Write was a 48-year-old teacher from Pinewood Elementary, while Katina Jones, 49, and Yolonda Hudson-Williams, 49, were teachers at Dillard Elementary, NPR reported.
The school district is trying to encourage the staff to get vaccinated with monetary incentives, Broward County School Board Chair Rosalind Osgood told CNN, "but there are a lot of people that have still not gotten the vaccination," she said. "And it is becoming a deadly thing for them not to be vaccinated."
Florida is currently dealing with its largest COVID-19 outbreak of the entire pandemic, accounting for around a third of all the cases in the entire country. On Monday, the state reported more than 56,000 new cases, and hospitalizations have jumped by 53% in the last 14 days, according to The New York Times. Just 50% of residents in Florida are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.
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