SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - While school leaders in Sarasota County were expected to make a big decision about its mask mandate on Tuesday night, the district’s COVID-19 dashboard confirms they are currently seeing a slight spike in coronavirus cases. This news is something that not only the Sarasota County School District would have to take into account, but Manatee County leaders, as well.
“We have seen sort of an uptick in the number of cases, but we thought potentially that it could be much worse than what it’s been. We have not come close to having to close any of our schools. We haven’t even considered that possibility,” explained Michael Barber, spokesperson for Manatee County Schools.
This remains a priority – especially as the cases and exposures are now on the rise. In Sarasota County, just this week, there have been a total of 35 positive cases, and 448 students and faculty members have been sent home to quarantine. The district has had a total of 141 cases since the start of the school year.
“I know that our staff is continually speaking with the Department of Health and Sarasota Memorial Hospital collectively, as we watch numbers throughout the county. Working closely also with what we see at other school districts. My hope is that the public dialogue can continue,” expressed Sarasota County School Board Member, Bridget Ziegler.
This uptick is also being seen at schools in Manatee County. The district currently has 26 COVID-19 cases, and 308 students and staff that have been exposed since October 12th. In total, Manatee County Schools have had 120 confirmed cases.
“That sounds like a large number, and it is, but when you think of it, we have 34,000 students on our campuses every week, and we have 4,000 employees. We’re talking about 38,000 people on our campuses every week. Those 120 people means it’s 0.31% of confirmed cases of people who are on our campuses, so we are pretty happy about that,” said Barber.
Barber says he believes this increase is because many are being careless and infecting others.
“The spread on our campuses is extremely minor. People are getting exposed outside of the school environment and bringing it into the schools It’s all about really reaching out to our parents and our employees, and saying again, if you’re sick or you have symptoms or are not feeling well, don’t come to school. Everybody is worried about another spike, so we’re trying to constantly be looking forward to prevent that from happening as much as possible,” Barber explained.
Both Sarasota and Manatee County School Districts say they are expecting even more students to be back on campus as they transition to the second quarter, so social distancing and masks will be even more enforced.