Nearly 5,000 new COVID-19 cases related to FL K-12 schools in first week of spring semester

3rd grader reading. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Two weeks ago, Florida’s K-12 schools resumed for the 2020-21 academic year while the COVID-19 pandemic continued. Students and teachers returned to their classrooms or logged in to online learning platforms.

But in the week Florida students started the 2021 spring semester, 4,786 new COVID-19 cases were reported by the Florida Department of Health. The Phoenix compiled the state’s data from individual schools.

The total came from both public and private K-12 schools, from Jan. 3 through Jan. 9.

The breakout showed at least 3,667 K-12 student COVID cases, along with 374 teacher cases, 217 staff cases, and 528 other cases, according to the Phoenix analysis.

Overall, between Sept. 6, 2020 and Jan. 9, 2021, the state’s numbers show 45,170 COVID cases related to public and private K-12 schools, as well as 11,270 COVID cases related to Florida public and private colleges and universities.

Statewide on Tuesday, the figures show 1,589,097 COVID-19 infections and 24,436 deaths of Florida residents, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The numbers come at a time where more students are returning to brick-and-mortar classrooms, and the conversation on whether students and faculty are safe in physical classrooms as the pandemic continues.

The COVID vaccines are not yet available for most of Florida’s teachers and staff and a children’s version of the vaccine will not be available for awhile. (Educators 65 and older would be eligible for the shots because of the governor’s push to immunize the elderly.)

In addition, there is a nationwide struggle to distribute the COVID vaccines and Florida currently leads the nation in cases of a more transmissible strain of the COVID virus.

Adding to the complications, there have been inconsistencies in recent reporting of COVID cases related to Florida schools from the Florida Department of Health, which affects the Phoenix’s ability to analyze the data.

Before the 2021 New Year, the Florida DOH updated the report weekly, adding data from the week before the update. Now, the most recent report shows data from the first week of school, which was actually two weeks ago. The Phoenix has reached out to the DOH for an explanation on the recent reporting timeline and is awaiting a response.

In addition, the Phoenix reached out for clarity on how the Department of Health reported data over winter break, and has yet to receive a response.

Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University, majoring in English with a focus in editing, writing, and media. While at FSU, she served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine, Nomadic Noles. Last fall, she fulfilled another editorial internship with Rowland Publishing, where she wrote for the Tallahassee Magazine, Emerald Coast Magazine, and 850 Business Magazine. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat. She spends her downtime traveling to all corners of Florida and beyond to practice lindy hop.