MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Coronavirus cases are up 26% among children in Florida, but it’s not known how many of those involve kids who have returned to schools. That’s a question Gov. Ron DeSantis is under increasing pressure to answer.
For months, DeSantis has been pushing for a return to classrooms, with desks distanced and kids in masks.
“Because the risk, fortunately for kids is extremely, extremely low,” he said.
Still, he hasn’t presented a statewide safety plan. And more than a month into face-to-face learning, he has not released COVID-19 data on schools.
For families like the Richardsons, the lack of information made it difficult to decide between virtual and in-person schooling.
“It was even up to the last second. I was still having second thoughts,” said student Reese Richardson.
Richardson started 7th grade in-person at Martin County Public Schools, one of the first districts to reopen in the state.
One day after reopening, an entire classroom in the district was placed under quarantine. Hundreds more were quarantined just days later.
In Jensen Beach, one elementary school has yet to have an outbreak.
The halls are marked to facilitate social distancing. The dining area is disinfected after every use.
However, the desks are not 6 feet apart because there is not enough room.
“If we took the book shelves and things out, I might be able to space them out more,” said teacher Jamie McNealy.
The superintendent said parents were warned.
“Yes, that was information that was put up, you know, right up front,” said Martin County School District Superintendent Laurie Gaylord.
Unlike the state, the Martin County School District does release its own COVID-19 data.
So far, it’s reported 22 positive or presumed positive cases and has quarantined about 510 students.
State data shows a 26% increase in cases among children under 18 since classes started, and the overall positivity rate is 14.3%.
The pandemic has also killed eight children in Florida, including a 9-year-old with no pre-existing conditions.
Now, Florida’s largest teacher’s union is running TV ads to pressure DeSantis to release the data.
“When we deny that information, it just causes the spread to grow much faster,” said Andrew Spar with the Florida Education Association.
Richardson stopped going into school after a week and a half.
“Kids were taking off their masks. They were touching. They were close in the halls,” Richardson said.
Last week, 40 students at her school were quarantined.
Until Florida gets a handle on the COVID-19 situation in schools, the Richardsons said they’re staying home.