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Hillsborough School Board holds emergency Covid meeting, nothing planned for Pinellas

Mark Parker

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While neighboring Hillsborough County has scheduled an emergency school board meeting due to rising Covid-19 cases in the district today, the Pinellas School Board (PCS) has yet to announce any such discussion.

On Monday, Hillsborough County Public Schools reported that 5,559 students and 316 employees were isolating or quarantined. People who have tested positive for Covid are said to be in isolation, while those who have had close contact with a positive case are said to be in quarantine.

These numbers led to the school board scheduling an emergency meeting today to discuss the latest impacts and strategies to mitigate the virus, “up to and including mandatory face coverings for all students and staff,” according to a district notice.

According to the Tuesday update, the number of students in isolation or quarantine rose to 8,400 out of 213,491 total. The number of school employees in isolation or quarantine dropped slightly, to 307 out of 23,596. The Hillsborough school district’s Covid dashboard reported 399 students and 198 employees tested positive on Monday, bringing the number of total cases to 1,485 since Aug. 2.

Isabel Mascareñas, Public Information Officer for the Pinellas school district, told the Catalyst there has not been any talk of an emergency meeting regarding Covid yet. However, there is a regular board meeting scheduled for Aug. 24. She said the district decided at its Aug. 9 workshop that a mask mandate with an opt-out clause would place an unnecessary burden on teachers, and the district would continue to “strongly encourage” all students and staff to wear masks.

Pinellas County does not report the number of students and staff in quarantine after exposure to a positive individual, only the number of positive cases. In the first four days since schools opened their doors for the new year, 361 people in the district have tested positive. Of those, 108 are employees, and 253 are students. On Monday, 56 students and 31 employees tested positive. Reporting on Pinellas positive cases is released the following afternoon.

The Pinellas district does report how many people are exempt from quarantine – which includes those who have been directly exposed to the virus but are either fully vaccinated or have been previously infected in the last 90 days. In the first four days back, 54 people have been exempt – with 44 employees and 10 students avoiding quarantine. During the first three days of reporting, no students were listed exempt – with all 10 student exemptions occurring on Monday.

To the south, the Manatee County School Board held an emergency meeting Monday in a debate that lasted more than three hours. It was then decided district students and staff would now be required to wear masks, although there is an opt-out option for parents. Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order banning mask mandates that do not leave a parental choice. Violation could result in the entire district losing state funding – and the Florida Board of Education will meet today to consider cutting funds to two districts that defied the order – Alachua, and Broward.

 

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