State health data: 189 teachers infected by the coronavirus

Teacher with students in elementary school science class. Credit: Getty Images

With headlines about thousands of students testing positive for COVID-19, new health data reveals that 189 teachers also have been infected — as well as 145 staff.

Those figures include teachers at public schools, universities and community colleges and private schools, according to the Florida Department Health. The numbers covers Sept. 6 through Sept. 26.

The Florida Phoenix found that four of the state’s largest public school districts had the largest number of public school teachers who tested positive for COVID. Those districts are Brevard, Duval, Hillsborough and Polk.

Of all teachers counted in the COVID data, Brevard County had the most infections, 15, according to the state health department. Of those 15 cases, 13 were teachers at public schools. The other two teachers in Brevard were at private schools.

The Phoenix reached out to Brevard County School District for a comment on the reports findings, but the district had not yet analyzed the data. The Phoenix is awaiting a response from the district.

The other three large districts showed this data for teachers who tested positive for COVID-19:

Duval — 13 total cases; 10 teachers from public schools.

Polk — 13 total cases; 9 teachers from public schools.

Hillsborough — 12 total cases; 10 teachers from public schools.

With a student population of about 73,000, Brevard County is the smallest school district of the four listed. Yet it had the largest number of teachers that tested positive for COVID, according to the data.

Compared to Hillsborough County, the third largest school enrollment in Florida, 10 public school teachers tested positive for COVID.

The report spans about three weeks in September and not all classrooms are at full capacity, with many Florida educators teaching students online because families opted for digital instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report also shows COVID-positive staff members from each school listed.  In Hillsborough, eight public school staff members tested positive, out of 13 total staff cases.

Miami-Dade County shows six public school staff testing positive out of 13 total staff cases.

The Florida Department of Health plans to update the report on teachers, staff and students every Tuesday.

With students included, the DOH’s report documents 4,689 COVID-19 positive cases relating to public schools, private schools, state colleges and universities over the last three weeks.

These numbers are significant in the ongoing conversation on whether schools should be open during a pandemic in the first place.

The Florida Education Association, which has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis and other officials over whether schools are safe and other issues, argues that districts cannot guarantee safety for teachers and students under current circumstances.

Andrew Spar, President of the FEA, feels that districts are not receiving the support to reopen brick-and-mortar schools safely for teachers and students.

“You have a Governor and a Commissioner of Education (Richard Corcoran) who want to make it seem like there is no issue with the coronavirus”

Spar commented on recent letters Corcoran sent to Miami-Dade and Broward school boards urging them to reopen brick-and-mortar schools faster than the districts anticipated.

“Those districts are being forced to speed up their reopening, whether they are prepared or not.”