SOUTHWEST FLORIDA, Fla. — Southwest Florida students returned to school Tuesday, and already some counties are reporting significant COVID-19 numbers. Now parents are concerned about schools staying open.
Right now, Lee County is leading with over 1,600 students and staff under quarantine for exposure or testing positive for COVID-19.
Despite Governor Ron DeSantis' mask mandate ban, Lee County is asking students and staff to wear a mask to keep everyone safe but is allowing them to opt-out.
At Challenger Middle School one mom says the school’s protocols are similar to last year, but she is concerned about the cases that showed up so quickly this week.
“I’m very cautious in every way. The only thing is my son is not vaccinated right now, well he can’t,” said Elizabeth Blanch. “But he has his mask and everything, we try to do the best we can.”
Online learning is still available for students, but not all parents are able to resort to that option to keep their children safe. That mom tells me her eleven-year-old son returned to in-person early last year because staying home just didn’t work out.
“If the school close so do the daycares. That’s what happened the last time. So, we didn’t have any back up,” she said. “And here, when the time goes by then they reopened little by little. If that happens again, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
I also took a look at Collier County, whose reporting 41 positive cases. The superintendent says the schools are fluid and willing to adjust if needed to stay open
“We saw ninety-one percent of our kids back last year in January. Outperforming the state first time ever in 21/ 21 categories. So we know the value of having kids in school. So, for right now out masks are optional in collier county public schools,” said Kamela Patton. “That means that we though are still creating our layers of protection. So, everyone still has hand sanitizer, all the desks are still facing forward.”
She says parent choice is huge and they will just watch out to see how things go.
Collectively all reporting schools in Southwest Florida have one-thousand-seven-hundred-forty-five people who tested positive for COVID-19 or are under quarantine from being exposed.
Here’s a county by county breakdown of all reporting area in Southwest Florida:
- Lee County reports 530 positive cases and people exposed to COVID-19
- Collier County reports 41 COVID-19 positive cases
- Hendry County reports 20 positive cases and people quarantined from exposure to COVID-19
- Glades County reports 34 COVID-19 positive cases
- Charlotte County reports 32 COVID-19 positive cases