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Tampa Bay schools see 10,000 COVID cases three weeks into the new year

The heavy load is testing school districts’ ability to keep up.
Dr. Erin Fougeres, of St. Petersburg, center, joins supporters of a mask mandate outside Pinellas County school district headquarters in Largo on Tuesday. A large group of anti-mask residents demonstrated nearby. Hours later, the School Board voted against a special meeting discuss a mandate.
Dr. Erin Fougeres, of St. Petersburg, center, joins supporters of a mask mandate outside Pinellas County school district headquarters in Largo on Tuesday. A large group of anti-mask residents demonstrated nearby. Hours later, the School Board voted against a special meeting discuss a mandate. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Aug. 28
Updated Aug. 29

The surge of COVID-19 cases that ushered in the new school year has quickened dramatically.

Public school systems in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties reported 5,334 cases of the virus this past week among students and staff — far outpacing the 2,153 cases they reported the previous week.

By Friday, the number of cases among the four districts totaled 10,387 since classes began on Aug. 10 and 11. Last school year, it took until Feb. 20 to reach that number.

The load is testing school districts’ ability to keep their data current. Officials in Hillsborough and Pinellas have been told that their local health departments have limited resources, leaving school district employees to do much of the work of logging cases and arranging quarantines.

Students arrive at Leto High in Tampa on Aug. 10, the first day of school in Hillsborough County.
Students arrive at Leto High in Tampa on Aug. 10, the first day of school in Hillsborough County. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

That has led to delays, which can give the virus more chances to spread. And it is not unusual for school employees to hear one number on campus and see another on the district COVID-19 dashboard, leading some parents and teachers to question the numbers’ accuracy.

The map below is being updated regularly to show the known cases in each of the area schools.

Below is a county-by-county look at area schools with the largest numbers of cases.

Hernando County: Winding Waters K-8 school led the district with 41 reported cases this week.

Other leading schools: Brooksville Elementary (30 cases), Hernando High (26), Central High (25), Spring Hill Elementary (23), Floyd, Moton and Westside elementary schools (22 each), Explorer K-8 (21), and Weeki Wachee High (16).

Hernando’s total for the week was 372 cases. That compares to 249 for the second week and 93 for the first week.

Related: Florida averages 250 COVID deaths a day; children top infections, positivity rates
Related: Judge rules for parents in Florida school mask case, a blow to DeSantis

Hillsborough County: The area’s largest district saw 2,513 cases this past week. As in the other districts, reports of illness are escalating as the year progresses.

The new cases included 43 at Summerfield Crossings Elementary and 41 at Durant High.

Other schools with large numbers: Mulrennan Middle (39), Sickles High (37) and Newsome High (35). Martinez Middle and McKitrick Elementary, which share a campus in Lutz, reported 34 cases each. Gaither High and Walden Lake Elementary had 33 cases each.

Pasco County: The district reported 1,508 cases this past week. That’s more than half of all cases district schools have seen since students returned to school on Aug. 10.

Hudson High reported 75 cases and is already in triple digits, with 103 to date.

Students at Sunlake High move between first and second period classes on Aug. 10, the first day of school for Pasco County.
Students at Sunlake High move between first and second period classes on Aug. 10, the first day of school for Pasco County. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Starkey Ranch K-8, the new school that had an outbreak in the previous week, continued to show widespread illness with 53 cases this past week. To date, Starkey Ranch has reported 89 cases.

Also of note: Pine View Middle School (47 cases), River Ridge High (38), Cypress Creek Middle (37), Pasco High (36), Centennial Elementary (35), Bayonet Point and John Long middle schools (33 cases each), Wesley Chapel High and West Zephyrhills Elementary (31 cases each).

Pinellas County: In Pinellas County there were 951 reported cases, which is lower proportionally than the other counties but still more than 10 times the levels seen last year.

Sawyer Rosenheim, 10, of St. Petersburg, stands at a lectern while making a public comment at Tuesday's Pinellas County School Board meeting. The board later voted 4-3 against holding a special meeting to discuss a mask mandate. Sawyer is a student at Midtown Academy in St. Petersburg.
Sawyer Rosenheim, 10, of St. Petersburg, stands at a lectern while making a public comment at Tuesday's Pinellas County School Board meeting. The board later voted 4-3 against holding a special meeting to discuss a mask mandate. Sawyer is a student at Midtown Academy in St. Petersburg. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Seminole High had 29 cases. That school was followed by Carwise Middle (28 cases); Osceola Fundamental High (27), James B. Sanderlin Elementary K-8 (23), and Clearwater Fundamental Middle and East Lake High (each with 22). There were 21 cases at Pinellas Park Middle and 20 at Hollins High.

Previous reports:

Aug. 21, 2021

Aug. 14, 2021

June 2, 2021