State

Parents and School Boards Concerned After School-Related COVID-19 Cases Concealed

Teachers and parents are becoming increasingly concerned about the safety of holding classes in person due to the decision by the Department of Health to redact information about school-related COVID-19 cases and to not release further data related to school cases.  

The decision to take down the list of COVID-19 deaths held by medical examiners was due to the released information not being finalized before it was posted.

Alberto Moscoso, Communications Director for the DoH, stated that “the Schools and Daycares COVID-19 Surveillance Reports in draft form were inadvertently made available on a Department archival site and not yet finalized. They remain under review as the Department verifies that data is accurately reflected.” 

One concern state officials had with publicizing causes of death and case descriptions was potentially disclosing confidential information. Dr. Stephen Nelson, the chairman of the state Medical Examiners Commission, said that redacting that knowledge would leave the list fruitless in its goal of informing Florida citizens about the spread of COVID-19. 

The Department of Health stated that it will not be releasing COVID-19 cases and instead will be leaving it up to school districts to do so. Certain counties have not been permitted to reveal school-related COVID-19 statistics.

The Orange County Health Department was ordered to stop releasing information to its citizens about school-related coronavirus cases.

Duval County was also ordered to shut down its coronavirus dashboard by the state due to privacy concerns. After the Duval County school district published a coronavirus dashboard during the first week of school, the state ordered its shut down within days as it infringed upon students’ privacy rights.

With over 1.6 million students back in school for the year along with over 180,000 teachers, organizations such as the Florida Education Association (FEA) are having doubts regarding the well-being of students and staff at local schools. 

Andrew Spar, president of the FEA, which represents over 150,000 teachers and school staff, expressed worry about his members and Florida students. “Parents like myself, who have kids in the classroom, are wondering, are they safe? And we want answers from the governor, but instead he’s quashing information.”

Even with resistance from communities and groups such as the FEA, Governor DeSantis and his team are still dedicated to ensuring schools remain open during the pandemic and see only a minimal risk to those families that decided to send their children to school. 

Since the beginning of the school year, over 1,200 students were put under quarantine due to exposure to the coronavirus. Likewise, 10,513 children under age 18 have tested positive since schools started reopening for in-person teaching, an increase of 34% since the school year has started. 

As the risks of going to school change by the day, many of those who were planning on letting their children attend school in person are now considering online school as an option to ensure the safety of their children. 

Featured image: Unmodified photo by West Point – The U.S. Academy used under a Creative Commons license. (https://bit.ly/3hEFyQV)

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