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COVID-19 in Tampa Bay schools: a weekly update

One month into the school year, the areawide case count is above 500, with as many as 10,000 affected by quarantines.
Monday was a busy day for coronavirus cases in Tampa Bay area schools. A single case at Webb Middle in Town 'N Country was among 67 reported that day. The list included some cases from the weekend before.
Monday was a busy day for coronavirus cases in Tampa Bay area schools. A single case at Webb Middle in Town 'N Country was among 67 reported that day. The list included some cases from the weekend before. [ Times (2018) ]
Published Sep. 26, 2020

The Tampa Bay area saw unprecedented numbers of school-based COVID-19 cases on Monday, then a slowdown to normal levels in the days that followed.

Was a lab somewhere backed up with tests? We don’t know. But here are the numbers, district by district:

Hernando County: There is still a modest level of activity in Hernando, with just 10 reported cases this week. Four of them were at Powell Middle School in Brooksville. There was one case each at D.S. Floyd, Moton and Pine Grove elementary schools; D.S. Parrott Middle; and Springstead and Nature Coast Technical high schools.

Nature Coast Technical High School, shown in a picture that pre-dates the coronavirus pandemic. The school has had four reports of COVID-19 so far this school year.
Nature Coast Technical High School, shown in a picture that pre-dates the coronavirus pandemic. The school has had four reports of COVID-19 so far this school year. [ Times (2019) ]

Hillsborough County: Between Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 27 reports were confirmed in Hillsborough, an unusually high report for one day. A similar burst happened in Pasco, suggesting a flurry of lab results.

Nevertheless, patterns are emerging. Multiple cases are being seen in high schools, three in particular. Newsome High has had 19 cases so far this school year, including eight this week. Steinbrenner High has 13 so far, including seven this week. Sickles High has had eight cases, including two this week.

Schools near Newsome and Steinbrenner also have been affected. This past week there were two cases at FishHawk Creek Elementary and one each at Bevis and Pinecrest, which are feeder elementary schools for Newsome. There were two cases at Martinez Middle, which shares a campus in Lutz with Steinbrenner.

There were three cases each this week at Apollo Beach Elementary and Alonso High. There were two cases at Plant City High School.

There was one case at each of these elementary schools: Bailey, Ballast Point, Bellamy, Chiaramonte, Chiles, Cork, Dover, Essrig, Folsom, Foster, Mitchell, Mort, Muller, Oak Grove, Reddick, Riverhills, Shaw, Town 'N Country, Walden Lake, Wilson and Wimauma.

Farnell, Progress Village, Shields and Webb middle schools also had one case each, as did Blake, Durant, Freedom, Jefferson, Leto, Plant and Riverview high schools. Other locations with single cases: Erwin Technical College; Advantage Academy of Hillsborough, Lutz Preparatory, Navigator Academy of Leadership, Pepin Academies and the school district office.

Pasco County: Twenty-six reports were counted on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Gulf Highlands Elementary School in Port Richey was especially busy with six cases over the course of the week. Sunlake High had five cases and Pine View Middle School had four. There were three cases each at Gulf High and J.W. Mitchell High.

There were two cases each at Cypress, Double Branch, Fox Hollow and Schrader Elementary, and at Land O’Lakes High.

Students arrive at Gulf Middle School on Aug. 24, the first day of school in Pasco County. Pasco is the most transparent among local districts in reporting quarantine information stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. More than 2,500 students and staff have been affected so far.
Students arrive at Gulf Middle School on Aug. 24, the first day of school in Pasco County. Pasco is the most transparent among local districts in reporting quarantine information stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. More than 2,500 students and staff have been affected so far. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
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One case each was reported at Calusa, Centennial, Chester W. Taylor, Gulfside, Lake Myrtle, Mary Giella, Northwest, Odessa, Pine View, Rodney B. Cox and Seven Oaks elementary schools.

Hudson Middle, Pasco Middle, and Hudson and Pasco high schools also saw one case each. There was an employee case in the department of transportation. There were six cases among virtual students.

Pasco continues to be the most transparent district in its reporting of quarantines, with 2,505 students and staff affected so far. If those numbers are representative, more than 12,500 students and staff in the Tampa Bay area have experienced quarantine so far this school year.

Pinellas County: A shift to distance learning was announced at Plato Academy North in Palm Harbor, a charter school, after a case was reported on Tuesday.

In the traditional public schools, the district continued to respond with “surgical” quarantine activity. In some cases, they sent part of a classroom home; in other cases, part of the ridership on a school bus. At Tarpon Springs High, they quarantined part of the football team after a case on Thursday.

A bus leaves St. Petersburg High on Aug. 24 after dropping students off for the first day of the 2020-21 school year in Pinellas County. Sometimes, when there is a confirmed case of COVID-19, the district quarantines just some of the students on a bus.
A bus leaves St. Petersburg High on Aug. 24 after dropping students off for the first day of the 2020-21 school year in Pinellas County. Sometimes, when there is a confirmed case of COVID-19, the district quarantines just some of the students on a bus. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

There were two cases each at Belleair Elementary and East Lake High.

The Tarpon Springs High School football team, shown in 2019. Part of this year's team was placed under quarantine this week because of COVID-19. [Times (2019)]
The Tarpon Springs High School football team, shown in 2019. Part of this year's team was placed under quarantine this week because of COVID-19. [Times (2019)]

And there was one case each in Garrison-Jones, Kings Highway, North Shore and Ozona elementary schools; Clearwater Fundamental and Pinellas Park middle schools; and Hollins, Osceola Fundamental, Countryside, Richard O. Jacobson Technical and Tarpon Springs high schools.

Northside Christian had another case, following others earlier this year. The private school has been able to close it upper campus for cleaning in response. And, after three quiet weeks, the Walter Pownell Administrative Center in Largo reported its ninth case.

The weekly total, for the four school districts, was 153 cases. Since the schools opened (Aug. 24 for Pasco and Pinellas, Aug. 31 for Hillsborough and Hernando), the Tampa Bay Times has confirmed a total of 529 cases.

Colleges and universities:

Over the last week, the University of South Florida reported 54 students and six employees across the school’s three campuses have tested positive for COVID-19. Cases listed are those that students, faculty or the health department report to the university and those who test positive at the Student Health Center.

The university also began it’s pooled testing approach, in which a random group of individuals are given a saliva-based test. If any in the pool come back positive, the entire group is asked to take nasal COVID-19 tests.

Of the 537 individuals tested as of Sept. 22, eight tested positive with a 1.48 percent positivity rate in its pooled testing group.

Over the same time period, the University of Tampa reported 47 students and one employee have tested positive. The school also reported 195 of its 265 reported cases from the beginning of the semester have recovered as “symptom free and not contagious.” Cases reported are those who self-report or are diagnosed at the student health center.

Previous reports: