ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Kids across the Tampa Bay area are heading back to school this week after their holiday break just as Florida is seeing another wave of COVID-19 cases surge.
As 2021 came to a close, Florida recorded its latest all-time high of single-day COVID-19 cases on Dec. 30 with 75,962 reported.
According to the Florida Department of Health, 39,544 of 298,455 cases reported during the week of Dec. 30 were from children and teens ages 5 through 19.
If your child has tested positive for COVID-19 or been exposed to someone who has, it's important to know what to do before sending them back to the classroom.
Currently, no Tampa Bay area school has a mask mandate in place, though most school districts "strongly encourage" them.
The Pinellas County School District will begin following the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines whereas people who are exposed to COVID-19 should isolate for five days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving, can wear a mask in spaces where they could encounter people.
Other school districts are not making big changes in terms of protocols.
Still, all Florida schools have a policy in place if a child has COVID-19 symptoms, tests positive or is exposed.
In September, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo signed an emergency rule designed to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
According to the rule, if a student has COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive, they should not attend school, school-sponsored activities or even be on school property.
Students can return to the classroom according to the following measures:
- Once they receive a negative COVID-19 test and are asymptomatic; or
- Ten days have passed since the onset of symptoms or a positive test result, the student hasn't had a fever for 24 hours and the student's other symptoms are improving; or
- They receive written permission to return to school from a doctor.
If a student is exposed to COVID-19, parents have the following options:
- Students can attend school, school-sponsored activities and be on school property without restrictions so long as they remain asymptomatic.
- Students can be quarantined for up to seven days.
If, however, students become symptomatic or test positive after exposure, parents must abide by the rules listed above.
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