State unpublishes report tracking COVID-19 cases on school campuses
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - More than 700 coronavirus cases have been linked to K-12 schools and higher-education institutions over the course of two weeks as students and employees began returning to campuses across the state, according to a Florida Department of Health report made public Monday, then later deleted.
The report breaks down the number of cases tied to elementary, middle and high schools, as well as colleges, universities and trade schools. Altogether, 714 people, including students and employees, have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 10, according to the report.
The cases reflect a two-week period in which thousands of students throughout the state returned to classrooms or began moving into dorm rooms at colleges and universities.
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Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran have been resolute in their weeks-long push to reopen K-12 schools and higher-education institutions in Florida, which has been one of the hardest-hit states by the coronavirus pandemic. Campuses shut down in March as the pandemic grew in Florida, forcing students to finish the spring through distance learning.
During the past two weeks, 25 school districts reopened in accordance with a July 6 order issued by Corcoran that required schools to offer in-person instruction by the end of the month. In that time period, 205 students and 342 employees at elementary, middle and high schools tested positive for the virus, according to the report. Health officials also reported a dozen “unknown” cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
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Fourteen of the cases have led to hospitalizations, with 85 percent of the hospitalizations tied to people who are 35 years old or older, according to the report. No children have been hospitalized after testing positive for the virus.
While pushing to reopen schools, DeSantis and Corcoran have said children are at an “extremely, extremely low” risk of getting sick from COVID-19. Over the past two weeks, 64 children between the ages of 5 and 10, and 122 children between the ages of 11 and 17, have tested positive for the disease, the report says.
Post-secondary schools have reported fewer coronavirus cases than K-12 schools since Aug. 10.
Part of the reason is that universities and colleges had not resumed in-person classes during that time period. Most universities and colleges began in-person courses on Monday, and the move-in process for students began earlier this month.
The state report, however, appears to be inconsistent with the number of infections that universities have reported in the last two weeks. For example, the state report says 90 students and 61 employees at universities, colleges and trade schools have tested positive for the virus, along with four “unknown” cases.
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But Florida State University and the University of Central Florida have reported 42 and 94 positive cases among students, respectively. The cumulative number of cases at those two universities surpasses the statewide total in the state report.
Department of Health spokesman Alberto Moscoso said Monday night the state report was inadvertently published and that it contained information that remained under review to ensure it's "accurately reflected." Moscoso, however, did not dispute any of the numbers reported earlier Monday by The News Service of Florida.
Once numbers are fully verified, Moscoso said the department plans to publish information about school-related COVID-19 cases in the coming days and weeks.
"The Department (of Health) remains committed to public transparency and expeditiously providing the most up-to-date information available regarding COVID-19 in Florida," Moscoso said in a statement.