Almost 2,200 K-12 students tested positive for COVID-19 last week in FL schools as Thanksgiving gatherings approach

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Classroom. Credit: Pixabay.

There were 3,655 new COVID-19 cases related to Florida public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities during the week of Nov. 15 through Nov. 21, according to state data.

Given what we know about the ease of COVID transmission, there’s a not unreasonable chance that those kids could share the virus during with family members during Thanksgiving break, especially if they interact with vulnerable older relatives, and produce higher caseloads within the following weeks.

“In so many Florida families it’s intergenerational. You have folks of multiple age that live together. You could very well be bringing home COVID-19,” said Rep. Anna Eskamani, a Democrat who represents part of Orange County.

“I think there’s a shared desire to be reunited with our families. But, of course, COVID-19 is still here,” she said in a telephone interview. “This is definitely a very concerning time.”

The latest information from the Florida Department of Health indicate 961,676 total COVID cases in the state, with 54,133 hospitalizations and 18,254 deaths of Florida residents.

The department reports at least 26,029 COVID-19 cases total related to Florida public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities since Sept. 6. They include students, teachers, staff, and other cases.

Last week, total 736 cases were related to Florida’s colleges and universities and 2,919 cases with Florida’s public and private K-12 schools. They included 2,177 K-12 public and private student cases; 230 public and private K-12 teacher cases; 145 staff cases; and 367 other cases.

Three of Florida’s largest school districts reported more than 200 cases related to their public and private K-12 schools: Palm Beach (246), Broward (254), and Miami-Dade (429).

The trend suggests the department could report nearly 4,000 new COVID-19 cases related to Florida schools during the week of Thanksgiving break when the they update the data next week.

The Phoenix reached out to the department for comment but officials have not yet responded.

The department has released recommendations on how to have a safer Thanksgiving gathering, including hosting the celebration outside and avoiding in-person gatherings if a family member is over 65 or has an underlying health concern that puts them more at risk.

However, the recommendations do not discourage large family gatherings and only mention masks for those who are traveling for the holidays.

The CDC released Thanksgiving guidelines to help make celebrations safer. If attending an in-person event, the CDC recommends wearing a mask when possible, staying six feet away from people who do not live in your household, and bringing your own plates and utensils, among other suggestions.

The CDC notes that only celebrating with people in your household or attending a virtual Thanksgiving gathering “is the safest choice this Thanksgiving.”