HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County currently has 11,675 students and staff out on quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.
“When we have a confirmed positive case, we trace 48 hours before symptom onset or 48 hours before the positive test. We identify students that were less than six feet away from the positive individual,” said Jennifer Sparano who is the COVID coordinator for the school district.
Hillsborough County uses staff at each school to trace people who have been in contact with someone when they test positive for the virus. Other school districts have been able to rely on their county health department to do the labor-intensive job of contact tracing.
The Sarasota County School district is now taking over that responsibility after the county health department fell behind on notifications.
While the Pinellas County School System is also in the process of changing the way they do contact tracing in order to keep notifications up to date.
In Pasco County, school district personnel were trying to do the job of contact tracing, but have now shifted that responsibility back to each school.
“We changed things up on Friday and the numbers really increased dramatically on Friday,” said Steve Hegarty with the Pasco County School district.
Each school system is trying to strike the right balance between protecting students by putting people in quarantine after they’ve been exposed to the virus and keeping children in school.
“We don’t want kids in school if they are sick, we don’t want kids getting sick at school. At the same time, we don’t want kids to miss school unnecessarily,” said Hegarty.
In Hillsborough County, the number of students and staff in quarantine has declined this week.
“We definitely have been able to exclude more students from quarantines because we have implemented the mandatory mask policy,” said Sparano.
Hillsborough County is one of several school districts that recently voted to implement a mandatory mask order despite Gov. Ron DeSantis’ insistence that the decisions of wearing a mask must be left up to the parents.