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About 100 people sent home following COVID-19 case at Palmetto High School

Students are being told to use eLearning before returning to the classroom. The earliest they can do so is Sept. 10.

PALMETTO, Fla. — About 100 people, mostly students, were sent home after a teacher member at Palmetto High School was found to have been infected with COVID-19, a district official confirms.

Dr. Scott Hopes, a board member and epidemiologist with the University of South Florida, says the case involved a teacher who had lunch with another teacher who tested positive for the virus. 

According to the Manatee County School District, the teacher's classroom might have exposed about 100 students throughout six periods on Aug. 27. 

This is the Manatee County School District's first incident of potential "in-district spread," Hopes said.

"I talked about ensuring that teachers are at least 6-feet away from the students when they're lecturing. I took the time out of my schedule to come to this very school to have a detailed conversation and provide some education for leaders of this particular program. I'm disappointed, but we are overcoming it," Hopes said.

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Palmetto High Principal Carl Auckerman in a message to parents and staff Tuesday said, "The case resulted in [an] abnormal number of students being quarantined from our campus for a period of 14 days."

Because the school did not have up-to-date seating charts of each class, school and health officials were "unable to clearly identify those students who had direct exposure to the confirmed case."

Seating charts are being made in an effort to help the Florida Department of Health conduct proper contract tracing, Auckerman said.

"I really thought they were going to have one seat empty, another student there, and an empty seat, but my daughter said it was just a full class," Julia Martinez said. 

A few weeks into the school year and Martinez's daughters are two of the 100 in quarantine. She says her sophomore had class with the teacher who tested positive.

"We had to go pick them up for them to come back home and get in quarantine. 100 students in a day. To home and quarantine for two weeks? It gets you upset. It got me upset," Martinez said.

Julia says it wasn't a requirement to get her sophomore and senior tested for COVID-19, but she did. They're still waiting for the results. 

Students in the meantime are being told to remain home in quarantine while eLearning. The earliest day they can return back to class is Thursday, Sept. 10, if they do not show symptoms or are waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test, Auckerman said.

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