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Coronavirus in Tampa Bay schools: a weekly update

Case counts are dropping after a peak in late August.
A masked student searches for his first-period class at Sunlake High on Aug. 10, the first day of school in Pasco County. Sunlake led the district this past week with 39 reported cases of COVID-19, but school case numbers across the county are headed down.
A masked student searches for his first-period class at Sunlake High on Aug. 10, the first day of school in Pasco County. Sunlake led the district this past week with 39 reported cases of COVID-19, but school case numbers across the county are headed down. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Sep. 18
Updated Sep. 20

In the early weeks of the school year, the spread of COVID-19 was so rapid that Tampa Bay area schools struggled mightily to respond.

While the work is still daunting, with more than 22,000 cases to date, the numbers are now falling throughout the region. Hillsborough County schools, which adopted the strictest masking policy on Aug. 19, were the first to see a downturn, about a week after the new rule took effect.

Hillsborough also has seen the sharpest drop, reporting roughly a third as many cases this week as the week ending Aug. 27, when the district hit a peak of 2,626.

But the numbers also are decreasing in Pasco and Pinellas counties, which do not require masks, and in Hernando County, where parents can sign an opt-out form to excuse their kids from wearing masks.

Areawide, the weekly totals have dropped from more than 5,000 cases in late August to this week’s 2,618.

Below is a summary, county by county, of public schools with the most reported cases. All cases, even those not mentioned in this report, are shown in the interactive map. The districts’ reporting methods vary, and some districts do not report charter school cases.

Hernando County: From a high of 397 cases in the week ending Sept. 3, Hernando has improved steadily to 158 cases this past week.

Eighteen cases were reported this week at Pine Grove Elementary, 14 at Explorer K-8, 13 at Hernando High and 12 at Floyd Elementary. There were 11 cases at Central High and 10 at Eastside Elementary. To date, there have been 1,534 cases in Hernando.

Hillsborough County: The district’s total this past week was 869 cases — down from more than 2,600 when the outbreak was at its worst.

Schools of concern this week included Durant and Strawberry Crest high schools as well as Lutz and Turner-Bartels K-8 schools. Each had 17 cases.

Eisenhower Middle and Sumner High each had 16 cases.

These schools had 15 cases each: Patel High, Mintz Elementary, Navigator Academy, Riverview High and Shields Middle.

To date this school year, Hillsborough has reported 9,786 cases.

Pasco County: The 701 cases reported this week in Pasco show continued improvement. The case count two weeks ago was just under 1,100.

As happened last year, high schools are reporting the biggest numbers.

Sunlake High led the list with 39 cases. There were 27 at J.W. Mitchell High, 26 at Fivay High and 25 at Zephyrhills High.

Gulf Middle School reported 21 cases. There were 18 each at River Ridge High and Seven Springs Middle.

Since the school year began, Pasco has reported a total of 5,862 cases.

Related: Pasco high schools say yes to resuming pep rallies, homecoming dances

Pinellas County: The district reported 890 cases this week, down from the 1,416 cases that were reported for the week ending Sept. 3.

Pinellas Park High reported 33 cases and Tyrone Middle had 30.

Hollins High reported 28 and there were 23 each at Azalea and Osceola middle schools.

Boca Ciega High had 20 cases. The total in Pinellas since school reopened is 5,103.

Across the four counties, public schools have reported 22,285 cases of COVID-19 so far this school year.

Previous reports:

Sept. 10

Sept. 3

Aug. 28

Aug. 21

Aug. 14