State Watch

Nearly 5,600 Tampa-area schoolchildren isolated or in quarantine

Nearly 5,600 students at a Tampa-area school district are in isolation or quarantine, as the number of COVID-19 cases in Florida continues to skyrocket amid a nationwide surge.

Hillsborough County Public Schools revealed on Monday that 5,599 students and 316 employees in the district were either in isolation or quarantine as of early that morning.

Isolation refers to individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, while quarantine indicates people who have had a close contact with a positive coronavirus case, according to a statement from the district.

The district said it will hold an emergency school board meeting Wednesday afternoon to “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.”

Roughly 2.4 percent of the student population in the county is under isolation or quarantine, according to ABC Action News Tampa Bay.

The Hillsborough County district currently requires masks to be worn in schools, but an opt-out provision does exist, according to the local news outlet.

The numbers from the district come as Florida has seen a record number of daily case rates since the start of the pandemic, largely driven by the highly infectious delta variant that has taken hold as the dominant strain in the country.

Florida has emerged as an epicenter in recent weeks, breaking hospitalization and daily case records several times over.

A number of health officials and Democratic lawmakers have blamed Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for the worsening coronavirus situation in the state. DeSantis will not implement mitigation measures that have shown to help curb the spread of the virus, instead contending that such acts have caused circumstances in other regions to worsen.

The governor signed a controversial executive order last month making mask mandates in the state’s schools optional in an effort to let parents decide whether their children should be required to wear face coverings while in educational settings.

The vast majority of recent COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths have been among individuals who are not yet inoculated against the virus, leading a number of lawmakers, including DeSantis, to encourage vaccines.

The governor urged Floridians to get vaccinated last month, contending that the shots are “saving lives.”

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