FLORIDA, USA — The more we know about the coronavirus, the better we can make plans and protect ourselves.
Transparency from medical experts and community leaders along the way can make all the difference. That's why many school districts around Tampa Bay are trying to figure out ways to inform the community about coronavirus cases within their schools.
Polk County Public Schools is the largest employer in the county with roughly 100,000 students. What's happening inside that district has a big impact on the community as a whole.
"There are so many questions surrounding this virus and uncertainty in the community but even amid the uncertainty, they are still entrusting us with their children and they’re sending their kids to us every day. We felt like they needed as much information that we could provide to them," said Rachel Pleasant, the senior director of communications with the district.
On Tuesday, the district launched a live dashboard with the number of COVID cases in their schools. As of the time of this article, there were two cases but Pleasant expects that number to increase by the end of the day.
She added, "The community values transparency and communication."
Pasco County Schools also created a website with a daily tally of coronavirus cases. The update will occur every day between 4:30 and 5 p.m. and again at 11:30 p.m.
Both sites provide the date the district found out about the positive case and the school the student or staff member attends. All other information is protected by privacy laws; however, the districts work with the Department of Health to perform contact tracing and personally contact people who came into contact with that infected student or staff member.
The third district to launch a COVID-19 dashboard was Citrus County Schools. The district will now release school-by-school breakdowns of positive COVID-19 cases in partnership with the Citrus County Health Department.
"It's important for us to be as transparent as possible with our families and
community. I want you to know we have already had a few positive COVID cases in our schools and district offices," Superintendent Sam Himmel said. "We anticipated this may happen and we are well prepared to address these issues as they arise."
Families can visit the case tracking site here. Information regarding positive cases in students and staff will be updated daily.
Other districts in Tampa Bay are also considering public portals.
Hillsborough Schools will be launching a COVID-19 dashboard in the coming days. Pinellas County is considering a public tracker but for now, the district is reporting confirmed numbers to the media from the previous day so families are informed first.
A spokesperson with Sarasota Schools said, "There has been discussion about creating a public-facing dashboard to make this information easier to access."
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