ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It's basic math. Some of the numbers on individual school district sites don't match the numbers on the Florida Department of Health's latest report showing the number of COVID-19 cases in Florida schools.
In an interview with 10 Tampa Bay, Andrew Spar, the President of the Florida Education Association, the largest teachers' union in the state said, "We are not sure the data is accurate. First of all, it starts with September 6th when we have some school districts that started on August 10th."
10 Tampa Bay reached out to the Florida Department of Health about the inconsistencies. We will update this article when we hear back.
For example, Newsome High School in Hillsborough County has had 24 positive cases of coronavirus in the school according to the district's dashboard. The dashboard shows two of those cases are staff members, the remaining 22 are students.
However, according to the state's new report, Newsome High School only has 10 cases of COVID-19, all students. The report also indicates that six of the 10 had symptoms, two were asymptomatic and two were unknown.
A spokesperson with Hillsborough County Schools said their dashboard is updated about every four hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. A spokesperson with the Department of Health of Hillsborough County explained their report is issued weekly, every Tuesday.
However, Spar believes the timing of the state's report doesn't tell the whole story.
"I think this may be another step to keep data under his control. That’s not what this should be. This should be transparent," Spar said. This should not be the state taking over and deciding what information they’re going to share."
Polk County was the first district in Tampa Bay to launch a COVID-19 case log on its website. As of last Thursday, they stopped releasing that information referring people to the state's new report instead.
Polk County Public Schools used to update the tracker on their website every time district leaders were notified of a new case, sometimes multiple times a day.
Now the public will have to wait until the state's report updates every Tuesday.
"We’re seeing this attempt to suppress data. That’s what we’ve seen all along since schools have reopened," Spar added.
A spokesperson with Polk County Schools said they will continue to contact families when their school has a positive case. Its website reads:
"Under PCPS’ COVID-19 communication procedures, our schools will continue to send mass messages via the district’s automated telephone and email system (SchoolMessenger) to parents and staff members, when a confirmed positive case impacts their campus and requires others to quarantine."
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