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What you need to know for Thursday, July 22, 2021

Happy Thursday Tampa Bay!

TAMPA, Fla. — Hello Tampa Bay! We're another day closer to the weekend. 

Masks optional in schools 😷

With COVID-19 cases trending in the wrong direction, health experts are urging people to get vaccinated. 

The CDC says if you're not fully vaccinated, you should still wear a face-covering indoors.

However, the Florida Department of Education is doubling down on its push for optional face masks in schools for the 2021-2022 school year.

Right now, every school district across the Tampa Bay area is adopting an optional face mask policy for the upcoming school year. 

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

Credit: Pinellas County Schools

There's something in the water 🦈

Reports of sharks gathering in canals across Pinellas County and Longboat Key have scientists pointing the finger at Tampa Bay's recent red tide outbreak.

According to researchers, homeowners have spotted everything from small black tips to medium-sized bull sharks swimming around in their backyards.

It's unusual but not unprecedented. 

Bob Hueter, the chief scientist of Ocearch, an organization that collects data on sea life by tracking different species, says a similar phenomenon happened in 1992 around lower Tampa Bay near the Skyway Bridge.  

The sharks will eventually disperse once red tide does as well, according to Hueter. But, for now, he says it would be interesting to see if current red tide mitigation efforts will attract more sharks to areas where there's plenty of oxygen.

If you do come across any sharks in onshore areas, you can report your sighting to Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium as well as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

>>You can find our complete red tide coverage here. 

RELATED: Researchers say red tide is pushing sharks into Tampa Bay area canals

RELATED: Map shows high levels of red tide still in Tampa Bay, along Gulf coast

So long, Yanni 👋

The rumors are true: The Seattle Kraken, the NHL’s newest franchise, has selected Yanni Gourde from the Tampa Bay Lightning to join the team for its inaugural season.

The native of Canada has spent his entire six-year career with the Tampa Bay Lightning, helping the team win back-to-back Stanley Cups. During this year’s playoff run, Gourde had 6 goals and 1 assist.

He has 80 goals and 107 assists in his regular-season career, and 16 goals and 13 assists in his career in the playoffs.

Gourde was left unprotected by the Lightning ahead of Wednesday's draft, meaning he was at risk of being selected by Seattle. Each NHL team protected eight skaters and a goalie.

Here's to you, Yanni! 🍻