As of Friday, there were 134 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 26 employees and 105 students, according to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard. Cases have been confirmed at 60 of the district’s facilities and K-12 schools.
The number of COVID cases increased dramatically in the first week of school. When classes began on Tuesday, there were just five confirmed cases among district staff, CBS affiliate WPEC reported.
Palm Beach County is the 10th largest school district in the United States and the fifth largest in Florida, with more than 197,000 students. The district did not immediately respond to CBS News’s request for comment.
Not all people in quarantine are infected with COVID-19. Guidelines from the Florida Department of Health say anyone in K-12 schools who is symptomatic or has tested positive, or who is in close contact with someone who has it, should be immediately excluded from facilities. Anyone with COVID cannot return for at least 10 days. People exposed can return after a quarantine of 14 days from the date of the last exposure, or after seven days if they test negative.
Students in quarantine will not be able to participate in virtual learning, according to the WPEC, and will have to catch up with their work instead.
Palm Beach Superintendent Michael Burke told MSNBC this week that the district’s goal is to “bring our students back to our campuses in person.” But, he said, “we have gone as far as possible within state law to require face coverings for our students and staff.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis last week demanded that school districts not be able to force children to wear, which have been shown to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.
“The governor has to take responsibility for setting the ground rules by which we operate,” Burke told MSNBC. “This ability for families to opt out results in more cases, which will end up sending more children home and robbing them of the typical classroom experience. ”
Three days before the first day of class, Burke released a statement to parents, guardians and staff, saying the county was seeing a “rapid increase” in confirmed cases and. Despite the governor’s decree prohibiting districts from enforcing mask warrants, Burke said masks will be required in schools and on buses for all students. Parents and guardians can opt out, Burke said, and those who must send a signed note to their child’s school.
All staff are required to wear face coverings indoors and on district transport without being able to opt out, Burke said.
Data from the Florida Department of Health shows that cases have increased dramatically for several weeks. From July 30 to August 5 in Palm Beach, state data shows there were 7,787 new cases of COVID-19. Sixty-three percent of eligible people have been vaccinated in the state.