Under legal pressure, Florida releases names of schools with COVID-19 cases


A month after Florida schools reopened amid the coronavirus pandemic, state officials revealed for the first time on Tuesday evening a state report that details school-related COVID-19 data.

The school-specific data was released by the Florida Department of Health after a coalition of news organizations threatened to sue Gov. Ron DeSantis for violating the state public records law.

DeSantis’ administration refused to release the information after numerous requests over a month-long span. State health officials shared the data with local school officials but told them they considered the information confidential.

The report released Tuesday shows a limited picture of the number of COVID-19 cases tied to schools because it only includes data stretching between Sept. 6 and Sept. 26. Many schools began reopening in August, and the list is also missing some schools.

But a glimpse into the data shows a total of 4,689 COVID-19 cases have been tied to Florida’s K-12 and post-secondary schools stretching back to Sept. 6.

In Miami-Dade, in-person learning is set to resume Monday, but the state report outlines 53 COVID-19 cases throughout the K-12 school system. With a total of four cases, Key Point Christian Academy in Miami was the school with the highest number of cases in the county, the report shows.

Miami-Dade also reported 127 positive cases linked to post-secondary schools, with the University of Miami accounting for nearly 80% of the cases.

In Broward County, 88 COVID-19 cases were tied to K-12 schools. But none of them had big outbreaks. Monarch High School in Coconut Creek and Temple Beth Emet Day School in Cooper City each had four COVID-19 cases, the highest number of cases for any schools in the county.

In Monroe County, the state report outlined a total of five COVID-19 cases tied to schools.

In Manatee County, there were 46 K-12 cases and three post-secondary cases, with Manatee High School in Bradenton leading with five cases.

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In Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties, 429 cases were tied to K-12 schools and 326 cases to post-secondary schools.

Most schools in the three counties reported a single COVID-19 case over the 20-day period outlined in the report, with the exception of Oldsmar Christian School and Newsome High School, which reported 13 and 10 cases, respectively.

Hours before the report was released Tuesday, DeSantis told reporters that he did not know if the state had a report to release on school-specific data.

But in mid-September, the Republican governor suggested the release of the report was delayed because Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and Surgeon General Scott Rivkees were working on presenting the report in a “digestible format.”

DeSantis had previously indicated that he wanted the report to include context about the number of cases among students who were asymptomatic. The report released Tuesday includes that breakdown.

On Tuesday, the governor said he wanted the data released for one reason: good news.

“I want to get it out because you know why? The story is a good story to tell,” he said.


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