COVID-19 in Tampa Bay Schools: A Weekly Update

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The Tampa Bay area experienced an unprecedented number of school-based COVID-19 cases on Monday, then slowing to normal levels in the days that followed.

Has a lab been backed up somewhere with tests? We do not know. But here are the numbers, neighborhood by neighborhood:

Comté de Hernando: There is still a modest level of activity in Hernando, with just 10 cases reported this week. Four of them were at Powell Middle School in Brooksville. There was one case in each of the DS Floyd, Moton and Pine Grove elementary schools; DS Parrott Middle; and Springstead and Nature Coast Technical High Schools.

Nature Coast Technical High School, shown in a photo from before the coronavirus pandemic. The school has had four reports of COVID-19 so far this school year. [ Times (2019) ]

Hillsborough County: Between Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 27 reports were confirmed in Hillsborough, an unusually high report for a day. A similar explosion occurred in Pasco, suggesting a flurry of lab results.

However, models are emerging. Several cases are observed in high schools, three in particular. Newsome High has had 19 cases so far this school year, including eight this week. Steinbrenner High has 13 so far, including seven this week. Sickles High has had eight cases, including two this week.

Schools near Newsome and Steinbrenner were also affected. Last week there were two cases at FishHawk Creek Elementary and one each at Bevis and Pinecrest, which are feeder elementary schools for Newsome. There have been two cases at Martinez Middle, which shares a campus in Lutz with Steinbrenner.

There have been three cases each this week at Apollo Beach Elementary and Alonso High. There have been two cases at Plant City High School.

There was a case in each of these elementary schools: Bailey, Ballast Point, Bellamy, Chiaramonte, Chiles, Cork, Dover, Essrig, Folsom, Foster, Mitchell, Mort, Muller, Oak Grove, Reddick, Riverhills, Shaw, Town ‘ N Country, Walden Lake, Wilson and Wimauma.

Farnell, Progress Village, Shields and Webb Colleges also had a case each, as did Blake, Durant, Freedom, Jefferson, Leto, Plant, and Riverview High Schools. Other sites with unique cases: Erwin Technical College; Advantage Academy of Hillsborough, Lutz Preparatory, Navigator Academy of Leadership, Pepin Academies, and the School District Office.

Pasco County: Twenty-six reports were counted on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Gulf Highlands Primary School in Port Richey has been particularly busy with six cases during the week. Sunlake High had five cases and Pine View Middle School had four. There have been three cases each at Gulf High and JW Mitchell High.

There were two cases each at Cypress, Double Branch, Fox Hollow and Schrader Elementary and at Land O’Lakes High.

Students arrive at Gulf Middle School on August 24, the first day of school in Pasco County. Pasco is the most transparent among local districts in communicating quarantine information resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. More than 2,500 students and staff have been affected to date. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

One case each has been reported in elementary schools in Calusa, Centennial, Chester W. Taylor, Gulfside, Lake Myrtle, Mary Giella, Northwest, Odessa, Pine View, Rodney B. Cox and Seven Oaks.

Hudson Middle, Pasco Middle, and Hudson & Pasco High Schools also saw one case each. There was a case of an employee at the Ministry of Transport. There were six cases among the virtual students.

Pasco continues to be the most transparent district in its quarantine reporting, with 2,505 students and staff involved to date. If these numbers are representative, more than 12,500 students and staff in the Tampa Bay area have been quarantined so far this school year.

Pinellas County: A switch to distance education was announced at Plato Academy North in Palm Harbor, a charter school, after a case was reported on Tuesday.

In traditional public schools, the district continued to respond with “surgical” quarantine activity. In some cases, they have sent part of a classroom home; in other cases, part of the ridership of a school bus. At Tarpon Springs High, they quarantined part of the football team after an affair on Thursday.

A bus leaves St. Petersburg on August 24 after dropping off students for the first day of the 2020-2021 school year in Pinellas County. Sometimes when there is a confirmed case of COVID-19, the district quarantines some of the students on a bus. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

There were two cases each at Belleair Elementary and East Lake High.

The Tarpon Springs High School football team, featured in 2019. Part of this year’s squad was quarantined this week due to COVID-19. [Times (2019)]

And there was one case each in Garrison-Jones, Kings Highway, North Shore, and Ozona elementary schools; Clearwater Fundamental and Pinellas Park Colleges; and Hollins, Osceola Fundamental, Countryside, Richard O. Jacobson Technical and Tarpon Springs high schools.

Northside Christian had one more case, following more earlier this year. The private school was able to close the upper campus for cleaning in response. And, after three quiet weeks, the Walter Pownell administrative center in Largo reported its ninth case.

The weekly total, for the four school districts, was 153 cases. Since the opening of the schools (August 24 for Pasco and Pinellas, August 31 for Hillsborough and Hernando), the Tampa Bay Times confirmed a total of 529 cases.

Colleges and universities:

Over the past week, the University of South Florida reported that 54 students and six employees from the school’s three campuses had tested positive for COVID-19. The cases listed are those that students, professors or the health department report to the university and those that test positive at the Student Health Center.

The university has also started its pooled testing approach, in which a random group of individuals undergo a saliva-based test. If any of the pool members come back positive, the whole group is invited to have COVID-19 nasal tests.

Of the 537 people tested as of September 22, eight have tested positive with a positivity rate of 1.48% in its pooled test group.

During the same period, the University of Tampa reported that 47 students and one employee tested positive. The school also reported that 195 of the 265 cases reported since the start of the semester have recovered as “symptom-free and non-contagious.” The reported cases are those which self-report or are diagnosed at the student health center.

Previous reports:

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