Record COVID-19 cases in Manatee County schools going into holiday break

Coronavirus

MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – Students across Manatee County will have the next nine days off for the Thanksgiving holiday. Going into this break, the district has seen record COVID-19 cases.

The latest data available from the district shows 50 people tested positive for the coronavirus this week. 612 people were sent home to quarantine as a result of direct exposure.

The previous record for a five day period was back in late October. The district saw 43 COVID-19 cases that week with 322 exposures.

School Board Member and epidemiologist Dr. Scott Hopes has been monitoring the district’s COVID-19 data. He believes the recent climb in cases is a result of increased community spread.

“We have seen a rise or a surge in cases not just in Manatee County, but across the state and quite frankly across the country and much of that, I believe, is due to people getting a little bit too relaxed about following the protocols. The overwhelming majority of cases that we are seeing in the schools since school began August 17, are cases that are being brought in from the community,” said Dr. Hopes. “As we have seen the community cases rise through local spread, we are seeing an increase of students for the most part and a few faculty members that are showing up positive,” he continued.

Dr. Hopes fears the numbers are only going to get worse after the holiday break.

“My greatest concern is what it is going to look like the first three weeks of December after students have been out for nine days. Some families may be traveling against CDC guidelines, families may be having large gatherings, hopefully not.. but that is going to result in an increase of cases with students coming to school after being exposed over the holidays unfortunately. I am expecting the first three weeks of December to be pretty horrid,” said the epidemiologist.

Local parent Laura Hoffman has been keeping a close eye on the numbers in Manatee County. The upcoming holiday season is making her uneasy.

“It makes me super nervous. I know that there are families that are going to take it serious and keep it within their household, but I also know that there are many people who do huge family gatherings,” said Hoffman. “There are a lot of us that are worried. It doesn’t look good right now at all,” she continued.

Dr. Hopes says students have been doing a great job of following protocol on campus. He hopes it continues while they’re on break.

“I am really proud of our students. I really am because I think what we are seeing and I hope we see more of it is the students are doing a great job. They really are. This has not been easy, but they have eased into the new normal and it is my hope and expectation that they will continue to go back out into the community and remind their parents and remind their grandparents and aunts and uncles, please wear a mask so that we can all protect each other,” said Dr. Hopes.

Dr. Hopes plans on spending his holiday analyzing district and county data to find out which area schools are doing better than others and why.

“What is important is to know the answers to these questions so when students come back after Christmas, and winter break, we are prepared,” said the school board member.

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