By Peter D'Oench

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Four days after Miami-Dade began to return students to the classroom for in-person instruction there have been at least five cases of coronavirus in schools.

Charles D. Wyche Jr. Elementary, William H Lehman Elementary, Zora Neale Hurston Elementary and Eugenia B. Thomas K-8 in Doral have each had a student test positive.

In a Eugenia B. Thomas robocall, the principal told parents the health department confirmed that and she said that a student and those who came in close contact will not be allowed to return to school until cleared. The school will be thoroughly sanitized on Saturday. Students who feel sick are urged to stay home.

CBS4 has learned that the Miami-Dade school district is still waiting for confirmation from the health department in this case.

At Zora Hurston, Isel Piedra, who has a 7-year-old son enrolled at the school, told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “We have to live our lives. We must all wear face masks and observe social distancing. My son and I have had COVID. I hope we don’t get it again but we have to learn to live with this. I expected an uptick with everyone in isolation for so long. I am not overly worried. I am sure they are observing protocols.”

“I’m hoping the school took precautions, so it doesn’t go beyond one child. But it’s expected. It’s a pandemic,” said Mayra Rosario, a student’s aunt.

An employee at Poinciana Park Elementary has also tested positive.

The United Teachers of Dade union said they believe that figure is higher than what the district says it is.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said with children returning to school this week, it was almost inevitable that there would be cases. He said the district and the schools are doing everything they can to keep students safe.

Carvalho said “I want to be clear. Once we heard about the cases yesterday we established contact tracing and established communication with the individuals directly affected. Anyone who had direct contact will be in quarantine for 14 days. They are not cleared to come back to school or work until the Health Department clears them. The swift mitigation procedures that we have taken will reduce the risk of further infection. I am also encouraged by the smooth transition to contact tracing.”

“I have personally toured 4 schools today and we observed the best practices including employees wearing face masks and social distancing in the lunchrooms and cafeteria and classrooms. I do not see overcrowding. In fact, I saw in the classroom where in many cases the minimum distance was exceeded and students were as far as 5 to 6 feet apart. But I continue to stress there is a moral imperative for parents and students to go through their health screening.”

“If you are a parent and your child is exhibiting some symptoms keep them at home and contact your primary care physician,” he said. Carvalho said schools would be proactive. They would not wait for the state Health Department to tell them about cases. If they informed of cases, they would take action immediately and initiate their own contact tracing.

In the positive case at William Lehman Elementary, Carvalho said the child didn’t catch it at the school.

“I can confirm that this child did not contract the virus at school, that has been confirmed by the health department. Nonetheless, this child did have direct contact with some of his colleagues,” he said Thursday.

The UTD told CBS4 they have identified six schools with COVID positive cases with a possibility of two other schools as well.

UTD President Karla Hernandez-Mats said she believed it was possible the number of cases was being underreported. “We trust in a system that has not really gained our confidence,” she said. She urged parents and employees to come forward if they knew of cases.

“If you feel you know someone is positive and they are not getting that information out, feel free to contact us. This is a deadly virus and it is invisible. We do not want to be invisible. This is about everyone’s health and safety. To all parents we urge you to remind your kids that they have to wear masks all the time and too often too many kids are congregating and not keeping their distance from each other. We also need to make sure parents, listen to this. If you have additional supplies, please send them to your teachers. They need disinfectant wipes. They need sprays and they need rubbing alcohol.”

“Unless we all work as a community to mitigate this virus, we will have no choice but to close our doors once again. Governor DeSantis and the Miami-Dade County Public School Board should not have put the community at risk over a threat of defunding our schools. Who threatens to take away safety from children during a public health crisis. Those who put politics over people,” Hernandez-Mats said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, she urged parents to take part in ensuring the safety of their children.

“This is something that’s very serious. We don’t want you to send your kids if they’re sick to school. We believe that there will probably be more cases in other schools. And so safety is going to be extremely important,” she said.

Carvalho said schools are following protocols.

“We have asked all the individuals that had direct contact with this child to self-quarantine and be tested and remain home until they are cleared to return to school. But I’m appealing to our workforce and to our parents to be vigilant and if children are sick, if they have symptoms, please do not send them to schools,” he said.

Carvalho reminds parents to check their children every morning for symptoms and reminds employees to fill out their self-assessment health tests every single day.

The district also has a dashboard where students and parents can track COVID cases at schools.

Over the weekend, the teachers union is asking for parents to talk to their kids and to spare any supplies.

“Kids are conglomerating. They don’t know that they should keep a distance from each other. They’re not wearing their mask properly. We need your help. We need you to help them understand why this is important,” Hernandez-Mats said. “If you have additional supplies that you can spare, send them to your teachers. They need disinfectant wipes, they need spray. They need rubbing alcohol.

Peter D'Oench

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