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What you need to know for Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Good morning Tampa Bay!

TAMPA, Fla. — Good morning Tampa Bay! Happy hump-day. 👋

Masks in schools

For the third straight school year, parents and medical experts are debating the best and safest wafor the children to get an education as the global pandemic persists.

In March of 2020, all students in Florida were sent home, forced to complete their education via the internet. By August of 2020, most students in the Tampa Bay region had a choice between learning in-person while wearing a mandated face mask or learning remotely through virtual classes.

Now, with the 2021-2022 school year set to begin next month in Florida, districts across the region have decided to make mask-wearing optional.

On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidance on how to return to the classroom safely. Among its top recommendations are potentially requiring COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine proof, and masks for anyone over the age of two, including those who are fully vaccinated.

The recommendation contradicts those of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which updated its recommendations earlier this month to say that vaccinated students and staff don't need to wear masks in school. The CDC also isn't advising schools to require shots for teachers and vaccine-eligible students.

So where does your school district stand? You can find out here. 😷

RELATED: Here's where Tampa Bay area schools stand on face masks for next year


With COVID-19 cases in Florida doubling in the past week and hospitals across the state seeing a steady rise in admissions, Gov. Ron DeSantis has suggested the virus is simply following a seasonal pattern.

Last summer, just like now, new COVID-19 cases shot up following the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays. 

So we took this question to a panel of health experts: "Are COVID cases surging in Florida because this is the ‘seasonal pattern’ the virus follows?"

The answer: No. 

You can see a breakdown of who we asked and what other combinations of factors play a role in the surge we're seeing here.

RELATED: Current COVID surge in Florida not due to ‘seasonal pattern’ of virus

Keeping your pets safe 🐶

Red tide: Not only does it stink but it can also be dangerous to you and your pets. 

The red tide organism present in Florida, Karenia brevis, produces brevetoxins that can affect the central nervous system of fish and other vertebrates, causing these animals to die.

It can affect your pets if they're exposed to it too. 

If you notice after a walk near areas where red tide is in bloom that your dog is constantly panting at a faster rate, seems clumsy or is just acting differently, get them seen by a veterinarian immediately.

RELATED: How to protect your pets from red tide