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Lack of school COVID-19 data continues to frustrate teachers

The largest teachers' union in the state says pediatric cases have skyrocketed since schools reopened.

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — As the first semester begins to wind down for students across the state, we're asking questions about kids and COVID-19.

The Florida Education Association (FEA) sent 10 Tampa Bay this statement on Wednesday:

"The state still is not releasing Covid data for schools on a consistent basis, and because districts were left to fend for themselves, there is a hodgepodge of reporting mechanisms around the state. Some are useful to parents, students and educators, and others are less so. A few districts have simply stopped reporting their cases since the state began sporadically releasing school data. What the data shows unequivocally is that pediatric cases in Florida have skyrocketed since schools reopened. The current seven-day average of new pediatric cases is 871 per day, which is almost twice what the rate was when school campuses first reopened in August."

The FEA also sent this chart showing the rolling average of new pediatric cases in Florida. A spokesperson said a specialist with the union graphs data from the Florida Department of Health.

Credit: Florida Education Association

When 10 Tampa Bay combed through archives of pediatric COVID-19 data provided by the state, we found missing days and inconsistencies in reporting.

"What we know is that it wasn't as bad in terms of the spread but what we don't know because the Governor, Department of Health, and school districts are not being very transparent. We don't know how widespread COVID is in our schools," said Andrew Spar, President of the Florida Education Association.

RELATED: Doctor Diaries: Pediatric physicians reveal their experiences treating kids with COVID-19

The Florida Department of Health started issuing school coronavirus reports in September. 10 Tampa Bay found inconsistencies on day one.

Now, three months later, COVID-19 cases on the state's report still don't match the numbers provided by local school districts.

Polk County Schools actually stopped updating their coronavirus website in October, referring people to the state's weekly report instead.

Stephanie Yocum, President of the Polk Education Association said the staff was irate when the school did away with their dashboard.

"It's (the state report) a week out. The information is old and it's irrelevant at that point or at least it doesn't help anybody," Yocum added.

Since our reporting, the state now offers a FAQ sheet explaining why there are vast discrepancies between state and local data. One explanation is the Department of Health relies on lab testing for confirmation before they update their numbers.

According to the state's latest report published December 4, pediatric percent positivity is 12 percent. That means of all the children tested for the coronavirus, 12 percent of tests have come back positive.

RELATED: Here's where COVID-19 cases have been reported in Tampa Bay schools

RELATED: Florida reports another 124 people have died from COVID-19

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