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Florida health officials barred from releasing COVID-19 data about public schools

Florida health officials barred from releasing COVID-19 data about public schools
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Local health officials in Florida are not allowed to release detailed COVID-19 data about public schools because it could potentially violate privacy rules, local health officials in Orlando said Thursday.

“Because it’s confidential information, I can’t continue to release that data to the public in that format,” Raul Pino, the local state health officer, said during a press conference Thursday. 

Health officials said parents will be notified directly if their child came into contact with a case and needs to be quarantined.  

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Orange County Public Schools spokesman Scott Howat told the Orlando Sentinel that the district will continue to report their statistics.

As recently as this week, local health officials had released the number of cases associated with schools as well as the number of students and staff under precautionary quarantine broken down by a list of affected schools, the Sentinel noted. 

Pino suggested there are potential legal issues that may arise in releasing COVID-19 information as it relates to schools. The Florida Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

“I released that information without consulting [a counsel] more in detail about what my authority was to release that information,” Pino said. “So the responsibility is mine.”

As of Tuesday, Orange County had 59 students and staff with COVID-19, and at least one instance of student to teacher transmission, the Sentinel reported.