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Over 5,000 students quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 in Florida school district

Administrators for Hillsborough County Public Schools called an emergency meeting to consider a potential mask mandate "for all students and staff."
/ Source: NBC News

Over 5,000 students and hundreds of school employees in just one Florida district have either tested positive for COVID-19 or potentially been exposed to the coronavirus, school officials announced.

According to a Monday morning statement from the Hillsborough County Public Schools, 5,599 students and 316 staffers are either in isolation or quarantine.

"Isolation refers to individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 while quarantine refers to those who have had close contact with a positive case," the statement said.

Those numbers have prompted HCPS to call for an emergency board meeting where measures "up to and including mandatory face coverings for all students and staff" will be discussed.

The district includes the city of Tampa and serves over 200,000 students in more than 200 elementary, middle and high schools, according to the HCPS website, and is the seventh largest in the nation.

"We must continue safety practices community wide as we work to combat this virus," HCPS Superintendent Addison Davis said on Saturday.

The emergency meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 1 p.m.

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The deaths of two teachers and a teacher's assistant from COVID-19 in Broward County rattled locals as children began to return to the classroom, even as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis challenged school districts that flout his ban on mask mandates for schoolchildren.

Earlier this month, Florida broke its record for daily confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Speaking to MSNBC on Friday, Davis explained his district would mandate masks while allowing parents to opt-out.

"We're gonna make sure we still follow every statutory requirement, all the legal ramifications," Davis said. "But at the same time show that sensitivity with COVID in our community and put mitigation strategies in order to be successful."

The announcement of the emergency meeting did not mention if an opt-out to the proposed mask mandate would still be considered on Wednesday.

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