5,600 Students In FL School District Quarantining Within First Week Back

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Hillsborough County Public Schools, a Florida school district that encompasses around 220,000 students, has already had nearly 6,000 students and staffers quarantining within the first week of in-person learning

In today’s edition of politicians playing Russian roulette with their constituents’ health and safety, one school district in Florida is holding an emergency meeting this week due to a massive COVID-19 outbreak impacting thousands of students and hundreds of teachers so far.

Hillsborough County Public Schools, a western central Florida district that includes 220,000 students, released a statement announcing that as of Monday, August 16, at least 5,599 students and 316 employees within the district are in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure. This includes people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are now isolating, as well as those who have had close contact with a positive case and are now in quarantine.

The notice comes less than a week after the district returned for the start of the school year on Tuesday, August 10, amid a surge in COVID cases nationwide, but particularly in Florida. The state is experiencing record high case levels and hospitalizations, with Newsweek reporting around 150,000 new cases in Florida this week alone — and more than 50 children under 12 being hospitalized per day.

Of course, adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis inexplicably remains firm on his stance to ban mask mandates in the state’s schools, even recently threatening to cut funding for school districts who defy his executive order and require masks. He’d previously threatened to withhold school officials’ salaries for defying the order, but backpedaled on that quickly.

As for the Hillsborough County district, Superintendent Addison Davis tweeted, “We must continue safety practices community wide as we work to combat this virus.”

The district will hold its Emergency School Board Meeting (in person, natch!) on Wednesday, August 18, where board members will “discuss the latest district COVID-19 impact and the best way to mitigate against the spread of the virus, up to and including mandatory face coverings for all students and staff.” The meeting will allow for one hour of public comments.

Davis told MSNBC that the district plans to mandate masks while allowing parents to opt out, which makes zero sense but complies with DeSantis’ executive order. “We’re going to make sure we still follow every statutory requirement, all the legal ramifications,” he said. “But at the same time show that sensitivity with COVID in our community and put mitigation strategies in order to be successful.”

It’s so deeply clear that officials in many states are playing dangerous games with the people they’ve been elected to protect, and it’s so unfair to those who are trying to protect themselves and their loved ones amid this unnecessarily uphill battle.