First day: Pinellas County schools have already quarantined students and staff after six COVID-19 diagnoses

Red sign warning of coronavirus on a background of yellow school bus parking lot. Concept for closing schools or universities for quarantine because of covid-19 epidemic or pandemic outbreak
It's not clear how many students and teachers were affected.

After just one day of in-person instruction, two Pinellas County schools and an administrative facility have had to quarantine an unknown number of students, teachers and other staff after three employees and three students tested positive for COVID-19.

Parents of students attending Northeast High School received a notification from Principal Michael Hernandez Monday evening informing them that a student at the school tested positive for COVID-19.

“Contact tracing was conducted, and all affected students’ parents have been notified directly. Some students and staff members must quarantine for two weeks and will receive instruction online through our Canvas Learning Management System,” Hernandez wrote.

The notification did not provide specifics about how many students or teachers would be quarantined for two weeks.

The notification said all affected classrooms will be deep cleaned and disinfected.

Pinellas County Schools spokesperson Isabel Mascareñas confirmed in an email late Monday Northeast High School was affected as well as Pinellas Park Elementary School, Shore Acres Elementary School, and Carwise Middle School. There were also two staff diagnoses at the Walter Pownall Service Center.

Only Northeast High and Pinellas Park Elementary issued quarantines. The students and staff who tested positive at Carwise Middle and Shore Acres Elementary and the staff members at the district facility all self-isolated before school began, negating the need for quarantine.

At Northeast High School, all affected families received notification about the student’s positive test, however the notification, which Florida Politics obtained, pointed out that the receiving party was not required to quarantine.

Those directly affected and requiring quarantine were notified individually.

“As always, please continue to monitor your student for symptoms, and do not send your student to school if he or she is not feeling well,” Hernandez reminded.

Pinellas County Schools opened Monday for both in-person learning at brick and mortar schools as well as online through MyPCS and Pinellas Virtual.

Mascareñas did not specify whether the student at Northeast High School, or at other affected locations, was symptomatic or if they had been tested before school started. She also did not say how many students and staff members were quarantined.

Affected teachers who are able to continue teaching online during quarantine will be paid their regular salary and not required to use sick time. Those who are physically unable to teach during quarantine are entitled to up to 80-hours, two full weeks of work, of paid leave through the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Quarantined students who feel well are encouraged to continue school with online learning.

Earlier this month, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran urged local school officials to be “very surgical, not sweeping” when responding to coronavirus cases, which he acknowledged are likely to occur as classes resume this month.

“If you have a COVID-19 case or you have (COVID-19) symptoms, don’t panic,” Corcoran told school superintendents in a conference call. “Communicate with everybody and be open and transparent about it. We are going to have cases, and that’s OK.”

Corcoran asked superintendents to check in with top officials in the state Department of Education before shutting down a classroom or school, and said symptomatic individuals should be sent home.

He also stressed that school officials should communicate with parents whenever a symptomatic individual attends school.

“Even though it is not required, we would suggest dismissing the class for that day. Clean it, hyper-clean it, and let the parents know you hyper-cleaned the class,” Corcoran added. “Unless your child has symptoms or you see symptoms, we are fine with your child coming back the very next day.”

Here is the communication that sent to Northeast High School students:

Material from the Associated Press and the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


  • Janette Garside

    August 25, 2020 at 7:07 pm

    We are dealing with a GOP rule that have left the caring of citizens far behind to adorn there leader. Our Country should be great but now in stead of myself praying for God Bless America as I was taught to do. I now pray God help America.

    • Marianne Falkenberg

      August 26, 2020 at 12:47 am

      Amen \0/

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