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Tampa Bay schools report 1,400+ COVID-19 cases in students, staff

Pediatricians: Delta variant is very contagious
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Posted at 4:09 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 17:27:35-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay area school districts are already reporting 1,444 COVID-19 cases linked to students and staff with schools in session less than a week.

Here is a look at a breakdown:

  • 573 cases in Hillsborough County
  • 301 in Pinellas
  • 191 in Pasco
  • 182 in Manatee
  • 178 in Sarasota
  • 92 in Hernando
  • 73 in Citrus
  • 45 in DeSoto

Polk and Hardee Counties haven’t made their COVID-19 cases linked to schools public.

RECOMMENDED: Check the latest COVID-19 cases at your child's school, district

The spike in cases is concerning, but not surprising for local doctors and pediatricians.

Dr. Juan DuMois, the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, says COVID-19 is spreading quickly.

“The Delta variant that is circulating in our communities is super contagious and it is really easy for anyone to catch it including our kids,” he said.

ABC Action News spoke with four pediatricians from Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties about the spike in schools. They say the spike was inevitable with more kids back in the classroom and optional masks.

“It was a perfect storm and I think anybody who would look at this would have seen this coming a mile away,” Dr. David Berger of Wholistic Pediatrics and Family Care explained.

Local doctors say it’s just as important for parents to be mindful of how kids are staying safe inside the classroom and out.

“We don’t want to go to giant birthday parties at big locations. It’s not the time to visit theme parks,” said Dr. Jill Roberts at USF School of Public Health.

“If they go to a celebration and they access it and they’re not comfortable, don’t stick around,” Dr. Berger added.

They also stress talking to your kids about not sharing food or drinks. If your child is quarantined doctors say you need to take it seriously.

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Dr. Lisa Cronin at Children’s Medical Center says that even applies if your child doesn’t have symptoms.

“If your child is quarantined at home and not going to school but you’re taking them to Publix and the library and baseball, you could very well be spreading the virus to other people. Even though your child isn’t having any symptoms yet," Dr. Cronin said.

Cronin adds that recent research has found the Delta variant is up to 200X more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain.

“This variant is 200X more contagious than the original strains which actually makes it as contagious as the chickenpox or measles which is insane. There are not a whole lot of diseases that we have ever encountered that are that transmissible," she added.

With the Delta variant much more transmissible, local pediatricians worry cases will continue to climb and they’re asking parents who are opting out of masks in school to reconsider.

“I would say that masking is more important than physical distancing. The distance of 6 feet no longer applies to the delta variant. It’s that contagious,” Dr. DuMois added.