TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As COVID-19 cases rise in Tampa Bay and across the country, it’s back to school for most students in the area.
“When we left, we were right around 3% to 4% positivity rate within Hillsborough County and where we sit today, we are close to 14% positivity rate,” Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis said.
Davis said he expects 2,000 employees to be absent when students return to class.
Davis said district leaders were strongly encouraging students to wear masks, but wont enforce a mask mandate, since Florida law prevents schools from imposing mask requirements.
Dr. Jill Roberts with USF College of Public Health tells 8 On Your Side the best way to protect children from contracting COVID at school is getting them vaccinated. She says parents should also talk to their kids about wearing masks while inside school buildings, check them daily for symptoms of the virus, and have them tested if they’re showing any symptoms.
The doctor said it’s also important for parents to know their child’s schools safety protocols, which can sometimes be different from the CDC’s guidelines.
“We need to be very, very flexible, even if we’re not talking about the students getting sick, the teachers and the staff and everyone else can get sick. It may become possible that the schools cannot staff the classrooms. In some cases we may have to think about delays to the return to school or flipping to online learning, hopefully only for a short time period,” she said. “If kids do end up positive for COVID they still have to isolate for 10 days. The schools are following school policies rather than the CDC’s, that has not changed. If a kid tests positive it’s 10 days and definitely, no symptoms before they return to school.”
Florida shattered its daily COVID-19 record with 75,900 cases on New Year’s Eve. Governor Ron DeSantis says schools will remain open despite the surge in cases.