It’s proving to be a tough start to the new school year for some children in Florida.
As of Tuesday, the number of students in Hillsborough County, which includes the Tampa Bay area, who are in quarantine or in isolation after being exposed to COVID-19 has risen to 8,400.
That’s equivalent to a little less than 4 percent of the student population in the county.
More than 1,695 cases have been detected since August 2, of which 1,197 are in students and 498 are among teachers and staff.
An meeting has been scheduled by the Hillsborough County School Board for Wednesday to discuss the latest impacts and the best way to mitigate the spread of the virus, ‘up to and including mandatory face coverings for all students and staff,’ a notice from the district said.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 379 children have died, 43 of which have occurred since the Indian ‘Delta’ variant became dominant
A total of 8,400 students and 300 staff are in quarantine, according to Hillsborough School County dashboard. Pictured: High school students return on the first day of school, amid the coronavirus pandemic, at Hillsborough High School in Tampa, FL, on August 10
The number of students quarantined for COVID-19 for exposure to the virus grew Tuesday to 4% of the student population, with 1,600 students and staff testing positive
Of the nearly 1,200 cases among kids, nearly 400 tested positive for the virus on Monday alone.
Of the almost 500 school staff, 48 are employees of the school district office in downtown Tampa.
According to an update from the district on Tuesday, this has led to 8,400 students are currently quarantined or in isolation out of 213,491 total and 307 school employees quarantined or in isolation out of 23,596 total.
The current policy in Hillsborough County is that masks are mandated for students, but there is an opt-out provision.
As of a week ago, there were over 26,000 opt-outs; about 14 percent of the district’s students.
Elizabeth Devolder, a mother for Tampa, made the decision to keep her fifth and second-grade children home from school in what she is calling voluntary quarantine.
‘Although they were not immediately exposed, and they’re not required to quarantine, I felt like why do we have to wait for our kids to get sick before we take an action?’ she told local ABC Action News.
‘I think it’s terrifying,’ she added of the positive cases.
The district’s school board scheduled an emergency meeting to discuss the surge in coronavirus rates among public school students on Wednesday. Pictured: Addison Davis, Hillsborough County Superintendent of Schools (right) fist bumps student James Braden before he heads to class on the first day of school at Sessums Elementary School Tuesday
Across the Tampa Bay area, districts are reporting more than 2,800 cases of COVID-19 in schools.
Some districts are stepping up to help kids in quarantine. Pinellas County added live tutors to assist students with completing their assignments, while Hillsborough County added an online portal with resources for parents.
Devolder plans to keep her children home until the numbers go down. Until then, they’ll be writing to lawmakers asking them to put more protections in place.
‘We homeschooled last year and if we have to do that again, we’ll do that again,’ she added.
The news comes as Florida continues to be America’s COVID-19 epicenter with 151,764 new cases reported last week with a record-high seven-day average of 21,681 cases per day.
Average cases in Florida vastly increased to 30,353 on August 16 after the mandate to wear masks in closed public spaces was removed for the summer by Governor Ron DeSantis
According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the state has the highest hospitalization rate in the country with 65 COVID-19 patients per 100,000 people – triple the national rate, according to CNN.
What’s more, half of all ICU beds in Florida are occupied by Covid patients, HHS data show.
‘[Staff are] mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted and when they have all these patients in front of them sick with COVID-19 and they see the mortality that’s unnecessary, it’s demoralizing, Maggie Hansen, Chief Nurse Executive at Memorial Healthcare System, told NBC Miami.
‘They’re sad and frustrated because something can be done. Get vaccinated so they can get back to the business of health care.’
In late July, Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order preventing mask mandates in schools and in early August, he threatened to withhold salaries from school superintendents or board members who ignore his new mandate.