TAMPA (WFLA) – More than 5,000 students in one Florida county either tested positive for COVID-19 or are currently in quarantine for a possible exposure, school officials say.
The Hillsborough County School Board will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday, from 1-3:30 p.m. due to rising COVID-19 cases across the county.
As of 7 a.m., Monday, 5,599 students and 316 employees in Hillsborough County Public Schools are in isolation or quarantine. Isolation refers to individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 while quarantine refers to those who have had close contact with a positive case.
On the docket for the emergency meeting is a discussion of the latest impacts and the best way to mitigate the spread of the virus, “up to and including mandatory face coverings for all students and staff,” a notice from the district said.
Using a law passed this year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has barred schools and other local governments from imposing mask mandates. The governor has said he believes masks are not needed for children, who are less likely than adults to catch the coronavirus, and that they interfere with learning. He also has said it should be up to parents to determine if their child wears a mask. The state’s board of education recently said students forced to wear masks over their parents’ objections could be eligible for a voucher that would pay for their transfer to a private school.
Florida hospital officials are seeing an influx of young, healthy adults filling their wards across the state, many requiring oxygen. In the past week in Florida, 36% of the deaths occurred in the under-65 population, compared with 17% in the same week last year when the state was experiencing a similar COVID surge. Florida is the national leader in coronavirus deaths, averaging more than 150 a day in the past week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.