North county, elementary schools suffering the brunt of new COVID-19 cases in Pinellas
Image via AP.

kids wearing masks
Nearly 600 cases have been reported in K-12 public and charter schools since the first day.

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.

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].


  • sally crothers

    August 20, 2021 at 12:10 pm

    in manhattan
    playwright larry myers
    covid play

    votes vigilance vaccination is joined by

  • Matthew Lusk

    August 20, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    Janelle, you have completely failed to state the diagnostic tests used and the efficacy of those test kits. Journalism FAIL. Propaganda SUCCESS! Expect a pay increase.🤗

    • Stephanie kurtz

      August 21, 2021 at 8:54 am

      Pinellas numbers are likely a lot higher than what is reported since the reported numbers are only those confirmed by FDOH. The confirmation part is extremely behind. Thus, there is under-reporting.

      • Lucie Winchell

        August 21, 2021 at 11:45 am

        Totally agreed. Pinellas schools are in no way reporting properly, and are instead leading the false idea that pinellas numbers are so low. It’s absolutely impossible to believe when every surrounding county has cases in the thousands, and north pinellas has around what, 600. A big NOPE on that one.


    August 21, 2021 at 5:41 pm


  • B C

    August 21, 2021 at 7:02 pm

    Under-reporting is certainly a problem and tracking is even more difficult as students bring the virus to school. Masked students are less likely to spread it to one another, but delta also carries a much more contagious and more densely packed viral load.
    Mask mandates at school are somewhat effective, but if kids are catching it from friends during unmasked periods of the day or their parents bring it from their unmasked trip to Publix (where they’re likely to catch it from another customer since Publix has mandated masks for employees for weeks now), it becomes difficult to theorize the origin of the virus in any one infected person.
    Here’s an example. Florida has a population around 21,000,000 and 34,000 cases yesterday. Romania has a population over 19,000,000 and has 628 new cases yesterday. Florida is a mask free environment for the most part or masks are not required in all places indoors where people go, thus risking contracting the virus. Romania requires masks indoors, anywhere. The security personnel (private thugs, we’d call them) will tell you “hey, idiot, pull your mask up” and escort you to the door if you fail to comply.
    Florida Governor Ron DeSadist seems to have little actual concern for the safety of Floridians as he is consistently fighting schools and businesses for a ‘Fauci-free Florida’.
    Neither Florida nor Romania have laws requiring vaccinations. They aren’t mandatory. The difference is that Romania has consistency across the country with their mask mandates.
    DeSantis has the hallmarks of a populist and seems to think he’s the ‘King of Florida’, just as Trump believed he was the sovereign of America. This is why so many are sick. This is why so many have died.
    A state-wide, indoor, mask mandate is the best way to control this, but it won’t stop it like it would last year, when we were dealing with SARS CoV-2 version 1. Delta is much more pernicious.
    We’ll see what happens in the next few weeks, but today it may be too early to say the kids caught it at school. Likely, it was just noticed while they were there among adults trying to keep the population safe from the novel coronavirus.
    Briefly on coronaviruses. Most of us know that the ‘corona’ aspect is related to the appearance of the bug, but few of us know that the common cold is also a coronavirus. You never know where you caught a cold (unless you do) and it’s easy to catch. There’s also no cure. Vaccines aren’t cures. Vaccines are defensive precautions. Like airbags in cars working as a supplement to the seat belt, vaccines work in conjunction with masks, preventing the spread while shoring up long-term defenses.

  • Em

    August 21, 2021 at 10:38 pm

    I’m a parent of an elementary schooler in Pinellas County..I am friends with 6 sets of parents that have students in other elementary schools in pinellas county. And after my student told me she had a “seatmate” I asked the other parents to see if this was the practice everywhere. It seems it is. Can someone please tell me why schools are having the kids sitting in teams and groups and having desks connected? They were supposed to be following the same protocols as last year in regards to sanitizing and distancing (as much as possible). This seems almost intentional like they want an outbreak to prove themselves correct. If you demand mask mandates why would you make the kids sit on top of each other? I think something is very wrong here. Maybe this is also why more students than teachers are getting sick so far. If you’re a parent just ask your child what their seating arrangement is I bet you’ll be unpleasantly surprised. I had to request my child’s desk be disconnected. Smh.

  • John

    August 22, 2021 at 11:32 am

    I am a father to two Pinellas County elementary schoolers and both have told me that they are sitting in groups. We wanted our kids to breath freely, not breath on each other’s faces. Its blatantly intentional that the schoolboard and teachers are dedicated to making the spread happen so that they can politicize the spread that they’re manifesting. Last year, with masks, all schools were social distancing. Now without masks these “science based thinking teachers” are doing exactly what it takes to spread a virus. Disgusting attitudes these teachers have.

  • John

    August 22, 2021 at 10:26 pm

    @John. It’s not the teachers, you are the problem. When you spout that “We wanted our kids to breath freely” crap you expose yourself as a brainwashed fool. Itsymorons like you that are putting all of our children at risk, wtf is wrong with you? I’ll bet your one of those red necks I see waltzing around Publix with no mask on. smfh

  • Diane Berkheimer

    August 23, 2021 at 2:50 am

    My grandson (who is 4) can not attend his pre-school class because NO student is wearing a mask and 5 children sit at the circular, very small table, shoulder to shoulder. Have they not heard of distancing? Do we need to bring our own desks?

Comments are closed.


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