More than 10,000 students in Hillsborough County isolated or quarantined a week into new school year

COVID-19 Quarantine – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Halfpoint

Just a week into the 2021-2022 school year, over 10,000 students and staff in the Hillsborough County Public Schools district have been either quarantined or isolated as districts throughout the entire state struggle throughout the fight against COVID-19.

With more than 213,000 students, Hillsborough is the seventh-largest school district in the U.S. As of Wednesday, 10,384 students and 338 staffers have been put into isolation or quarantine.

In total, there were “1,805 COVID-19 cases among students and staff,” according to the Tampa-area district’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The district is requiring students to use masks, but parents can opt their children out from wearing them. 

After a marathon of a meeting that lasted nearly three hours longer than intended, Hillsborough County voted to utilize a mask mandate for at least 30 days. Parents will be able to opt their children out with a note from a medical provider.

It was a very heated debate, with one high school student telling the anti-maskers, “This tiny piece of cloth is not taking away your freedom. Grow up.”

Officials from the district said they are providing sanitation stations and personal protective equipment for each classroom. They have also installed MERV-13 air filters at each school in an attempt to slow the spread. 

“As we work to create the safest environment for our students and staff, we also must abide by the governor’s executive order, as well as emergency rules from the Department of Health and state Board of Education. This requires our district to preserve a parent’s right to choose to wear a face-covering in school,” said a spokesperson for the district. “The Governor has been clear that if school districts do not abide by this order, they could face financial consequences.”

Florida’s Bay Area has seen a rise in virus cases. In Pinellas County, 521 cases among both students and staff have already been reported this school year, while 227 have been reported in Sarasota, and 480 in Manatee. 

During a meeting similar to the Hillsborough Country gathering, Miami-Dade County’s school board voted on Wednesday to mandate masks with the ability to opt-out with a medical note. 

Increasing COVID-19 cases are a cause for concern as children head back to in-person learning. The worries grow further as children under the age of 12 are not eligible for vaccines yet. 

Currently, Florida has the country’s highest COVID-19 rate. The state reported 151,415 new cases from Aug. 6 to Aug. 12 and 286 deaths, with a new-case positivity rate of 19.3%, according to its latest weekly COVID-19 report. In addition, cases among children are up, with over 31,700 new cases reported last week among those 19 years old or younger.

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