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Five local schools report COVID-19 cases, local expert warns this is expected

TAMPA, Fla. — A growing list of schools that are already in session are now reporting positive cases of COVID-19.

The first week of school is already underway in Manatee County, and at several other schools across Tampa Bay.

So far, five schools are reporting cases of COVID-19:

  • Tara Elementary School in Manatee County
  • Ballard Elementary School in Manatee County
  • Rowlett Academy for Arts and Communication in Manatee County
  • Parrish Community High School in Manatee County
  • South McKeel Academy in Polk County

RELATED: Coronavirus cases reported at 3 Manatee County schools, official confirms

The Manatee School District says they have contacted those who were exposed.

“Anyone who had Direct Exposure to the confirmed cases has been contacted and sent home to isolate for 14 days from the date of known exposure, in accordance with CDC and Florida Department of Health protocols,” said Michael Barber, Director of Communications for Manatee Schools, in an email.

McKeel Schools sent an email to parents warning them of a possible exposure saying, “1. If your child is symptom-free they may return to school tomorrow. 2. If your child is presenting symptoms please do not send your child to school and contact our COVID Coordinator… 3. You may elect to execute distance learning with your child’s teacher.” McKeel Schools also says the school and the infected individual has been in contact with the Polk County Health Department.

RELATED: South McKeel Academy staff member tests positive for COVID-19

A local expert warns this is to be expected.

“Calculations that I’ve done recently say that about 1.5 percent to maybe 2 percent of the total population in Florida is infectious at the moment. So if you do that calculation, you figure 1-in-50 to 1-in-100 of the kids that are going to be going back to school are probably also going to be infected,” said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, Distinguished Professor at USF.

Dr. Unnasch believes reopening schools is the right thing to do.

“Eventually we’re going to have to start living our lives normally again,” said Dr. Unnasch.

Though he warns, even following CDC guidelines, there are risks parents need to weigh.

“I think they’re going to stay relatively low, but I think you are going to see a number of uptick of deaths in children, just because you’re going to have more children that are infected,” said Dr. Unnasch.

Keep in mind, the Florida Department of Health made a change Friday and is no longer reporting the daily cumulative COVID-19 cases and positivity rate on their pediatric report. This makes it more difficult to find out whether your school district is currently dealing with an outbreak.

We’re working to get answers on why the department made this change, and whether they will again provide these new daily numbers.

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