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Tampa Bay schools report more than 6,100 COVID cases for the week

This year’s case total so far is nearly triple the number for all of 2020-21. Some schools have logged 300-plus cases.
COVID-19 is an issue at Newsome High in east Hillsborough, which reported 79 cases of COVID-19 this past week and 438 for the 2021-22 school year. This photo, posted on Twitter, is from 2020.
COVID-19 is an issue at Newsome High in east Hillsborough, which reported 79 cases of COVID-19 this past week and 438 for the 2021-22 school year. This photo, posted on Twitter, is from 2020. [ Hillsborough County Public Schools ]
Published Jan. 22|Updated Jan. 23

Tampa Bay area schools continue to struggle with staff and student illness from COVID-19, with case numbers in the thousands across Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties.

Districts have responded in a variety of ways.

Hillsborough School Superintendent Addison Davis
Hillsborough School Superintendent Addison Davis [ DIRK SHADD ]

In Hillsborough, superintendent Addison Davis — who was recovering from COVID-19 this past week — asked that meetings and training be held virtually where possible. These included a principal’s meeting, new-teacher training, a citizens’ budget committee and an upcoming meeting of the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion task force.

However, the district went ahead with Thursday’s in-person Teacher of the Year reception and ceremony, which was expected to attract 900 people to the David A. Straz Performing Arts Center. There was no livestream option.

A livestream is planned for Wednesday’s Pinellas County Teacher of the Year ceremony, which will take place at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg.

Related: Armwood educator is named Teacher of the Year

But so far there has no been no remote viewing for Pinellas School Board workshops, including a recent session to discuss the search for a new superintendent. It took place indoors on Tuesday with most participants unmasked.

District spokesperson Isabel Mascareñas said participants at the workshops sit far apart, public seating is limited, and anyone who wants to wear a mask may do so. Staff are encouraged to conduct other business meetings virtually, she said.

Schools throughout Florida continue to operate under a new state law that bars them from ordering masks or quarantining children who are not sick.

Here is a county-by-county look at schools that reported the most cases:

Hernando County: Since students returned after the winter holidays there have been 843 reported cases in the area’s smallest school district, 310 of them this past week. The January number represents about one-third of the 2,661 cases this entire school year.

The week’s reports included 62 cases at Winding Waters K-8, 47 at Central High, 35 at Weeki Wachee High, 34 at Nature Coast Technical High, 32 at Explorer K-8, 31 at Hernando High and 29 at Pine Grove Elementary.

Hillsborough County: The Hillsborough district reported 3,093 cases during the week, still at levels comparable to the delta variant in September. That adds up to 9,710 cases since students returned to classes on Jan. 4.

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Steinbrenner High, which led the district in cases last year but had not reported any in recent weeks, logged 101 cases last week. Newsome High, one of the district’s largest schools and with some of the highest COVID-19 rates this year and last, had 79 cases.

There were 64 cases at Durant High, 63 at Sickles High, 58 at Walker Middle, 57 at Armwood High, 45 at Riverview High and 43 at Plant City High.

Pasco County: The week brought 1,681 reported cases in Pasco, pushing the school year’s total to 11,132.

Those reporting ill included 51 staff who work in after-school programs, food service and other crucial jobs. Separate from those were 13 cases in the district’s transportation department.

Pasco's Sunlake High School, shown in August of 2021, reported 78 cases of COVID-19 this week.
Pasco's Sunlake High School, shown in August of 2021, reported 78 cases of COVID-19 this week. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2021) ]

Among Pasco schools, Sunlake High took the biggest hit with 78 cases. There were 64 cases at Wesley Chapel High and 51 at Land O’Lakes High. Wiregrass Ranch High reported 44 cases and Fivay High had 43. Zephyrhills High had 41 cases and John Long Middle had 40.

Pinellas County: At week’s end, 1,088 cases had been reported in the district.

The larger numbers occurred in the administrative headquarters in Largo, which reported 46 cases, and the mid-county Walter Pownall Service Center, which had 39.

There were 32 cases at the Discovery Academy of Science and 31 at the Pinellas Academy of Math and Science. Osceola Fundamental High reported 32 cases. There were 43 cases at East Lake High, 23 at Seminole High and 20 at Largo High. Osceola Middle reported 18 and Johns Hopkins Middle 17.

The four-county total for the past week was 6,172 cases, down from 7,098 the previous week.

Since classes began in August, the case total is 45,462. At just over halfway through the school year, that’s nearly triple the number for all of 2020-21.

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