Punta Gorda Middle School principal Tina Dionisio and two Port Charlotte High School football players have contracted COVID-19.
Mike Riley, the Charlotte County Public Schools public information officer, confirmed the new cases Thursday and said the district is following established CDC guidelines as well as those protocols set down by the state departments of education and health.
“There could be others,” Riley said. “We’re doing what the state mandates.”
Dionisio informed her staff of her coronavirus diagnosis in an all-hands email to faculty and staff that was forwarded to the Sun.
In the email, Dionisio said she has shown no symptoms and that her husband — Charlotte County Public Schools superintendent Steve Dionisio — tested negative.
Dionisio’s case and that of the two Port Charlotte High football players are unrelated.
Riley said while the full scope of the situation is still to be determined, there are no plans to postpone the start of school, which is slated for Aug. 31.
“We’re mandated by the governor to open,” Riley said.
The two Pirates, who are brothers, contracted the virus and began showing symptoms before practice on Monday morning. They have not been in contact with the team since, head coach Jordan Ingman said.
“Because they play football, everyone wants to say it’s from football, but if you look at the CDC guidelines, our last practice was Thursday morning. So if you look at the five-day window for symptoms, there’s a good chance it wasn’t from football,” Ingman said.
“(Those players) will be quarantined for 14 days. But there’s no proof that there was exposure to our team, and no other players have had symptoms of it.”
Ingman said the Pirates will not change any of their existing protocols aside from quarantining the infected players.
“We knew this was a risk,” Ingman said. “But I think our kids need to play. I’ve seen the negatives of kids not being in a structured environment and I think that outweighs the other risks.
“It’s concerning because I don’t want anything to detract from our ability to get our kids back and develop them.”
The two schools are following protocols outlined and published on the district’s website. Beyond the standard quarantine protocol, the supervisor of district health services will conduct a preliminary investigation with the help of school administrators to determine if the individuals were wearing face coverings, others who were potentially exposed, the last day the affected were on school property and any groups of people who had close, prolonged contact.
Results of that initial report will be forwarded to the Department of Health. From there, the DOH will determine the scope of further contact tracing and will carry out any further investigation.
Once the school year begins, whenever COVID-19 cases are confirmed and involve a student or staff member at a particular school, families and staff will receive communication from the school via automated school messenger telephone calls, a DOH-Charlotte informational letter or an update of the COVID-19 dashboard at yourcharlotteschools.net.
Reporting by Vinnie Portell contributed to this story.