COVID-19 cases are soaring in Sarasota County Schools following the winter break, with 322 new cases among students and staff in the week since school resumed.

According to the school district’s dashboard, there were 40 total positive/isolated cases reported, and 189 total contact/quarantined cases reported in the last 48 hours.

There has been in increase in cases among school-age children, however, there continues to be limited evidence of transmission in the school setting, per the Department of Health.

“The bulk of transmission appears to be associated with case contact outside of schools,” according to Kelsey Whealy, spokesperson for the school district. “Currently there are approximately 163 cases (128 students and 35 staff) associated with the school district, and 470 (436 students and 34 staff) who are contacts to cases and have been quarantined. While these numbers are elevated, they still represent a very small portion of the entire school population. The current number of cases among students is 128, this is approximately 0.32% of the total student population. The DOH will continue to monitor school cases.”

The DOH currently monitors the number of cases in schools, transmission in the school setting, and positivity rate in the community.

“DOH evaluates all of these metrics, and in partnership with the School District, would make changes to the current guidance,” Whealy said. “Evidence of significant case transmission in the school setting would prompt discussion on changing current strategies as well.”

During last Thursday’s Sarasota County School Board meeting, Michael Drennon, program manager for Disease Intervention Services for the DOH in Sarasota, said DOH is not making any recommendations on changing how the schools are operating.

“However, it’s definitely something we are keeping on eye on,” Drennon said. “Hopefully as we look forward to the next couple of weeks, the numbers will start to decrease.”

Whealy said the district’s school cleaning efforts have always been stringent, even moreso amidst the pandemic.

“Our custodial teams remain dedicated to keeping our school communities as safe as possible,” she said. “Some of the efforts include: enhanced cleaning and sanitizing, increased cleaning to high-touch surfaces and applying a long lasting anti-microbial disinfectant.”

The North County high schools — Sarasota, Riverview and Booker — have the highest numbers of students currently out after testing positive. Sarasota has 18 out, Riverview has 17 and Booker High has 12. North Port High School currently has three students who are positive and isolated.

Health officials had anticipated that holiday traveling and gatherings could contribute to an increase in cases.

When Sarasota Schools closed down for the holidays on Dec. 18, a total of 608 students and staff had tested positive for the virus in the preceding weeks of school.

In the one week since schools reopened, that number has gone up to 930 positive cases within schools, an increase of 255 students and 67 staff in just one week.

The Department of Health has been in contact with all those who have tested positive or have been quarantined due to contact tracing procedures.

The Charlotte County School District reported five new cases within the past five days.


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