More than one storm on the way as schools open during the worst week of Florida's COVID-19 Pandemic

Highlights:

  1. Yahoo! News pitches our campaign to the world as the key to taking down Desantis

  2. Schools open across Florida during a record week of cases and hospitalizations in the state

  3. Multiple potential storms in the Atlantic may post week-end threat to Florida



Yahoo! News article:

An article published in Yahoo! News Friday illustrated just how vulnerable Matt Gaetz and Ron Desantis are in the upcoming (2022) elections, and pin-pointed OUR CAMPAIGN as the key to destroying not only Ron's presidential aspirations, but his chances at re-election as governor of Florida. Our fundraising efforts have increased, and we've seen increased awareness and support of our campaign thanks to the positive national press we've received. We'll continue working with local and national media to share our message and get Gaetz and Desantis out of office in 2022.


Schools starting amid peak pandemic:

As doctors, scientists and public health officials have expressed concern for the safety of children during Florida's record-breaking week of new cases, Florida hospitals reportedly became overwhelmed with pediatric COVID-19 cases. Yet, the state has done nothing to protect the health and safety of school students or staff, and seems to be recklessly headed toward yet another politically-motivated opening that will cost lives.

Children under 12 years old currently are not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and as such are the highest risk group in the state.


Please consider getting vaccinated if you have not already done so, and encourage your family, friends and neighbors to do so, as well. You can click here to find all locations offering the vaccine near you.


To help students, parents and school staff understand what we might face these next few weeks, I put together a dashboard that captures every school case reported by the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) over the previous academic school year for all K12 schools in the state. You can view either by district or individual school by selecting a county/district from the top-right menu of the dashboard. Please note that the dashboard is designed for best use on a desktop/laptop computer, and has not been adapted yet for tablet or mobile use.


Click here to see Florida K12 Cases from the 2020-20201 School Year


As always, there are a few caveats with this data--


First, FDOH didn't provide any data for cases in schools during the first month of fall 2020. Data starts Sept. 6, 2020, and ends before any districts actually finished their academic calendar on May 24, 2021. There is no justification provided for omitting nearly two months worth of data from these reports.


Here in Florida, concerned parents and school staff made so much noise last year about the state’s failure to report accurate data about COVID-19 in classrooms that the Public Health Accreditation Board, which certifies public health agencies in the United States, threatened to strip the Florida Department of Health for their failure to report schools data accurately, transparently and in a timely manner. The findings represented not just a major victory for my own fight for data access and transparency, but for parents and school personnel statewide.


But the state decided to stop reporting cases in schools weeks before school actually ended in Florida, triggering yet another investigation into DOH’s practices that remains ongoing. With the final report – when corrected for the under-reporting of staff that was consistent throughout the year – Florida recorded more than 125,000 student and staff cases. That doesn’t include those who caught it at home from someone who caught it from school, and those that caught it from them, and so on.


The costs were nearly immeasurable. Studies across the countries decried the reopening of schools across the country during the pandemic, finding that more than 43,000 people contracted the virus and nearly 1,000 people died from it in Texas that would not have had schools remained virtual or proper precautions taken. The per-capita rate of infection in schools in Texas was much lower than Florida’s, though the state prohibited researchers from accessing the data to do a similar study.


Now with the Governor banning masks and vaccination requirements ion schools, even though multiple vaccines are required for public school attendance outside of COVID-19, and variants that make children sicker than before are spreading like wildfire throughout the state, the outlook for schools seems much grimmer than before.


Last year, when states and the federal government both failed to set up any reporting infrastructure about COVID-19 cases in schools in the United States, I teamed up with FinMango and Google to do it ourselves.


The Covid Monitor became the national tracking database for COVID-19 nation-wide in schools quickly, with valuable collaborations with groups like Johns Hopkins and The Washington Post to deliver data to parents and communities that was being kept from them by leaders across the country.


Our project put pressure on districts and states to start reporting, and before the end of the 2020-2021 school year, most states reported some kind of data about cases in their schools. This year, each of our teams are already neck-deep in trying to keep up with our respective projects and data systems, and the Biden administration never put in place the national reporting data center for school cases as promised. We're not sure what infrastructure, if any, currently exists for providing transparent data about COVID-19 in schools.


Note about vaccines and those under 18:


In Florida, anyone wanting the COVID-19 vaccine who is under 18 years old must get parent or guardian approval. However, anyone 16 or 17 years old who is living independently, supporting him or herself, maintaining a job for self-support, responsible for his or her own debts, etc., can be considered emancipated without judicial proclamation. This includes college students. A minor who is married is given the same legal status as an adult, as well, as are pregnant teenagers. There are a few examples of when minors in the state of Florida have a right to make their own medical decisions about their own health and body, but unfortunately, the state seems to be creating more obstacles to teenage vaccine access, rather than encouraging it.


The current lack of healthcare consent that teenagers are allowed in this state should be something fixed at the state and national level, as a 16 or 17-year old is every bit of capable making their own decisions about their health and body as someone is on their 18th birthday.


Two tropical developments on the horizon; too early to know where, when and how strong

Two low pressure systems currently in the central Atlantic appear to have fair chances of development in the next five days. Both are too far out to say much about what might happen as they continue approaching the Caribbean, but please keep a watchful eye as these storms continue to develop.


Now would be a good time to check your hurricane supplies, though use caution and wear a mask when going to the store to replenish anything you may have used.


Hurricane Sally (Sept. 11-18, 2020) should serve as a reminder to never underestimate a hurricane that appears to be making landfall as a weaker storm. During the last several hurricane seasons, the typical de-intensification we expect from hurricanes as they approach land has been the exception - notably hurricane Michael, which I worked as an emergency response specialist for across the Florida panhandle - and of course Sally. Both hit the Florida panhandle, both defied what we've come to expect from hurricanes, and both have left lasting damage in the communities they impacted.




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