1,306 new COVID cases related to FL schools; state data on universities is sparse this week

Schools
School entrance sign. Photo, CD Davidson-Hiers

New state data show 1,306 COVID-19 cases related to Florida public and private K-12 schools and colleges from October 11 through October 17, including students, faculty and staff.

However, four-year public universities did not appear to be in the data for this particular week, or showed very minimal data.

Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to say that reopening Florida brick-and-mortar schools was the correct choice.

Since September, the Florida Department of Health has released weekly reports on positive COVID-19 cases in Florida schools.

In the state’s previous report, positive cases related to universities and colleges contributed to 527 of the cases reported from October 4 through October 10.

In the Phoenix’s last report of the data, the figures showed 8,080 total cases related to Florida K-12 and post-secondary schools reported from September 6 through October 10.

But this week, the total appears to be difficult because of the lack of university data. Even so, the total would have reached at least 9,386 cases since Sept. 6.

The Phoenix reached out to the Florida Department of Health for clarity on why university data was not included in this week’s report and is awaiting a response.

What we do know is the report shows 1,306 new cases of COVID-19 related to public schools, private schools, and colleges during the week of October 11 through October 17 — 936 new student cases, 123 new teacher cases, 60 staff cases, and 187 other cases.

In the week of October 11 to October 17, the state data reported Miami-Dade County as the highest contributor to total COVID-19 positive cases related to public and private K-12 schools and colleges — 101 cases, followed by Hillsborough (95), Okaloosa (73), Duval (72), Broward (70). Those cases include students, teachers, and staff.

Broward and Miami-Dade are two of Florida’s largest school districts and are the most recent to open brick-and-mortar schools. The Miami-Dade School District has had all students that chose an in-person learning option in the classroom since October 9, and the same with Broward County school district since October 15.

These numbers come at a time when some Florida school districts have had brick-and-mortar schools open for two months. While some school districts have reported a “new normal” since reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, controversy continues over whether schools should be open for in-person instruction at all.

The conversation started in July, when Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran signed an emergency order that forced Florida school districts to provide a brick-and-mortar learning option for students during the COVID-19 pandemic, or risk losing funding.

The Florida Education Association claimed that the emergency order oversteps the decision making powers of local school districts to decide when and how their schools should reopen in the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure a safe and secure learning environment.

The lawsuit is still ongoing, yet students across all Florida school districts are learning in classrooms.

At a press conference Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated that reopening Florida schools during the COVID-19 pandemic was the correct choice and misrepresented the claims of the FEA lawsuit.

“The union filed lawsuits — they’ve gotten totally dismissed out of hand, those bogus claims. Their goal was to keep kids out of school and they were wrong,” he said at the press conference.

Andrew Spar, President of the Florida Education Association, responded to DeSantis’s statement in a tweet Tuesday.

“.@GovRonDeSantis today continued to mislead the public both about the health and safety of students & educators and about @FloridaEA‘s lawsuit,” Spar tweeted. “When we filed suit this summer it was not to keep schools closed, but to ensure this vital decision was made locally, not in Tallahassee.”

DeSantis discredited media coverage of the emergency order and the lawsuit.

DeSantis said: “You’ve had all these different media publications that have looked at it– and they wanted to say ‘schools are bad,’ that was more their orientation.”

Discrediting media coverage is a pattern from DeSantis and Corcoran. Corcoran has even said he encourages everyone “never to read” the Washington Post or the New York Times at a State Board of Education meeting.

Overall, public school enrollment is at about 2.8-million across all districts.