Home / US / Cases of Covid-19 among Florida children have increased by 26% in one month. It is still difficult to know which schools are safe

Cases of Covid-19 among Florida children have increased by 26% in one month. It is still difficult to know which schools are safe

Governor Ron DeSantis continues to push for in-person education across the Sunshine State. Although its administration has released county-level data indicating a 26% increase, it has not released school-level Covid-19 data for all K-12 public schools, which CNN has begun asking the Department of Health. of the state on August 31. On September 2, almost two weeks ago, state officials emailed that the data would be released in the coming days and weeks.

However, the state has not provided this key information.

To address this information gap, some school districts have created their own Covid-19 data dashboards or posted coronavirus case numbers on social media pages or their websites. While useful in those jurisdictions, the overall result is a patchwork of data that varies in completeness and timeliness by district at a time when students, parents, teachers and administrators are making difficult decisions about whether to opt for virtual or in-person learning.

On campus, “people broke the rules”

Florida began reopening schools on August 10. On that day, 42,761 children under the age of 18 across the state were infected with the coronavirus, the state’s Department of Health reported.

A 6-year-old girl is the youngest person to die from Covid-19 in Florida, the state says

That week, nine of the 12 school districts that opened their doors were in counties with positivity rates above 5 percent, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s highest threshold for schools to offer in-person learning. CNN confirmed the list of districts it plans to open as provided by an attorney for the Florida Education Association and confirmed the positivity rates with the Florida Department of Health.

A month later, 53,717 Florida children tested positive for Covid-19, with a positive rate of 14.3 percent, according to state data.

In Martin County, the positivity rate among children tested is 20.5 percent, according to the latest state data.

Reese Richardson began seventh grade in person on August 11 at a public school in Martin County. But after about a week and a half, he decided to switch to virtual learning.

“The kids were taking off their masks,” Reese said. “They were touching. They were close together in the corridors. People were breaking the rules.”

Reese Richardson stopped going to school in person and is now learning from home.

The Martin County School District is one of those districts that releases its Covid-19 data through the media. One day after the reopening, an entire classroom was quarantined. A month later, it reported 23 positive or presumed positive cases and quarantined 510 students. The district has 16,500 K-12 students.

Lindsey Tarpley appreciates the district’s transparency, she said. She works for the Martin County School District and her children, ages 10 and 5, attend Jensen Beach Elementary School in the county.

“I use this information to make decisions for them to go to school,” Tarpley said.

But Jill Richardson, Reese’s mom and former teacher, wants more transparency from the district and the state.

“I don’t feel like I’m getting updated or accurate numbers,” Richardson said.

The Richardson family has decided to allow their children to start school in person. They switched to distance learning for about a week and a half during the school year.

District-level data varies in detail

At least 1.1 million students were attending an in-person education on Aug.31, the State Department of Education tweeted that day. But the data available to students and parents on the Covid-19 situation in their schools still varies from district to district.
Two Florida teachers turned their students into & # 39; desks in small jeeps to make social distances less scary
Hillsborough County Public Schools have launched a dashboard showing 255 positive cases in students and employees since July 31. The Osceola School District publishes on its website the number of students and staff who have been quarantined or tested positive for a given week.
Orange County Public Schools publishes its Covid-19 data on Facebook on Tuesdays and Fridays. The latest post cites 18 new positive cases in 17 schools since the last report and lists 61 schools that “have had a positive case associated with an individual who has been on campus since face-to-face classes began on August 21” .

Depending on how the data is tracked and displayed, this piecemeal approach can make it difficult to keep tabs on new cases and may not specify which schools, grades, or classrooms the infected students have been in.

Florida’s largest teachers union in a new TV commercial is pushing the state to release full data.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference in July.

“As the virus spreads, the ones above aren’t giving us the information we need,” says the narrator in the announcement. “Instead, Governor DeSantis plays politics with the health of our children.”

“When we deny what’s going on in schools, … when we deny that information, the spread increases much faster,” said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association.

As to why his administration hasn’t released school-specific Covid-19 data, DeSantis said this during a 9/11 press conference.

“It’s not like a test is referring to the state that the state necessarily knows which school it’s from. That’s not how it’s going,” he said in response to a CNN question.

DeSantis asked his commissioner for education and state surgeon general to provide the information, he said. But no date was given for the release of the data.

Students’ mental health is also a factor

The state does not require public schools in Martin County to report the number of students and staff who have been quarantined or tested positive, Superintendent Laurie Gaylord told CNN.

Students quarantined in Martin County stay at home. In some cases, a teacher – considered an essential worker – with the same coronavirus exposure is required to report to work for education in person the next day.

Despite all these challenges, many parents and teachers in Florida are comfortable with physical education. In Martin County public schools, 64% of students attend classes in person and 36% learn remotely.

The dining tables at Jensen Beach Elementary School in Martin County are labeled with Disney numbers and characters to encourage social distancing.

At Jensen Beach Elementary School in Martin County, pavilions are marked to facilitate social distancing. The dining room is disinfected after each use. But the desks in some classrooms aren’t 6 feet apart. Parents had been warned that social distancing would not always be possible, Gaylord said, so masks must be worn in schools.

Tarpley, the mum and the Martin school employee, is confident the district is doing everything it can to protect her children, she said. And she believes there is no substitute for being in a classroom in terms of her children’s mental health and well-being.

“With everything in life,” he said, “there is a risk.”

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