In the first week of classes, nearly 600 students and faculty in Pinellas County K-12 public and charter schools have tested positive for COVID-19.
According to data compiled from the school district’s daily reporting, 444 students and 135 faculty — excluding adult education and administration buildings — tested positive for the virus from Aug. 11 through Wednesday.
The highest concentration of student cases is exclusively in north county schools, with five of the seven schools reporting double-digit student positives all north of Largo.
So far, the worst student outbreak is at Plato Academy Clearwater, a charter school where 23 students tested positive as of Wednesday.
Among non-charter schools, Palm Harbor University High School has the worst student virus load, with 17 students positive, followed by East Lake High School with 16 students. Dunedin High School reported 11 cases among students in the first week of school, while Oak Grove Middle School in Clearwater had 10 student cases.
From Largo south, Plato Academy Largo and Perkins Elementary in St. Pete each reported 10 student cases.
So far, no Pinellas County Schools serving K-12 students had faculty case numbers reach double digits. The worst outbreak is at the Pinellas Academy of Math and Sciences in Largo; eight staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
Gulfport Elementary follows with six reported staff cases.
Cases have been reported at 130 Pinellas County K-12 schools as of Wednesday.
Unlike neighboring Hillsborough County, where quarantines among staff and students exceeded 12,000 this week, Pinellas County does not report the number of quarantines required.
However, while still troubling, Pinellas County Schools’ caseload is far less than Hillsborough, where 2,640 cases were reported since the beginning of August, including 2,431 since school began Aug. 10. That’s four times the number of cases in Pinellas schools.
Hillsborough’s crushing numbers prompted the district School Board to implement a mandatory mask mandate this week, without the state-required opt-out option for parents. Pinellas not yet considered such a move, maintaining a mask-optional policy that more than jibes with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order banning mandates.
Of the 130 K-12 schools in Pinellas with reported cases, 62 have only either students or faculty with positive virus results, not both. Student cases were reported at 117 of the 130 affected schools to date.
Of the 579 cases reported during the first week of K-12 schools, 361 cases were reported in schools that service elementary-age students. A handful of those — charter and special-needs schools — also host middle and/or high school-aged students.
That number is notable because children under 12 are not eligible for a vaccine.