Coronavirus case counts are continuing to fall in most Tampa Bay area public schools as school boards continue to wrestle with the issue of masking rules.
This week’s total of 886 cases across Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties is far lower than in every other week this year. Previously the weekly counts totaled more than 1,000 cases and sometimes more than 5,000.
The full school year’s counts are shown on the map below.
Here is a county-by-county look at schools with the most cases:
Hernando County: The district reported 82 cases, a level virtually unchanged from the previous week. The busiest schools were Springstead High with 16 cases, Nature Coast High with nine and Fox Chapel Middle School with eight.
To date, Hernando has recorded 1,700 cases.
Hillsborough County: With what still stands as the area’s strictest masking order, Hillsborough recorded 327 cases this past week, a fraction of the levels it recorded in late August.
Terrace Community Middle School had the most cases, with nine. Crestwood Elementary and Hillsborough High each had eight cases. Doby Elementary, Sumner High and Valrico Lake Advantage Academy each had seven.
The mask issue will resurface in the coming days. The School Board will discuss its masking policy on Tuesday, and the State Board of Education plans to meet Thursday to consider sanctions against Hillsborough and other districts that insist on medical documentation for students who opt out.
The total case count in Hillsborough since schools reopened: 10,877.
Pasco County: Like other districts, Pasco also saw a continued downward trend with 220 cases. By now, however, 22 Pasco schools have experienced more than 100 cases. With significantly fewer students than Hillsborough or Pinellas, Pasco’s numbers remain proportionally high.
The week’s largest counts were at Fivay High, which had 12 cases, and Thomas Weightman Middle School, which had 11. Bexley Elementary and River Ridge High had nine case each. Anclote High, Gulf High and Seven Springs Middle School each had seven.
Since schools reopened on Aug. 10, Pasco has reported 6,438 cases.
Pasco and Pinellas counties continue to employ the most lenient masking policies in the region, stating that face coverings are recommended but voluntary.
Pinellas County: The district reported 257 cases this week, with the largest share at Bay Vista Fundamental School, which had 12 cases.
Bay Point Middle had eight cases. Northwest Elementary and Plato Academy of Largo each had seven. The Pinellas Academy of Math and Science had six.
Since the school year began, there have been 5,734 cases in Pinellas County.
Areawide, the total stands at 24,749. These numbers exclude private schools and, in some counties, charter schools.