Politico by Andrew Atterbury
August 10, 2020
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida school districts are defying Gov. Ron DeSantis and publicly reporting new Covid-19 cases among students and staff that the state government considers confidential.
The state Department of Health has tried to directly quash reporting on the virus in some instances, after DeSantis said K-12 testing data “needs to be put in the right context.”
With no statewide standard, local leaders are left to decide on their own how and when to report Covid-19 cases in their districts. The result is a mix of differing daily and weekly reports and digital dashboards at school districts across Florida, with some counties not reporting any data to the general public.
In Bay County, for instance, school officials are aiming to produce three coronavirus reports a week. The district initially held off reporting anything to parents and the community as it watched the Department of Health’s response to counties that had built online dashboards to track the virus.
“We don’t want to get into any trouble, but we think transparency is the best way to go,” Bay County Superintendent Bill Husfelt said in an interview.
In a message to his school district, Husfelt noted that the Department of Health had asked some districts to take down their Covid-19 dashboards. In northeast Florida, Flagler County said the state forbid its local health department to release coronavirus data tied to schools. The DeSantis administration delivered a similar message to other counties, leading the state’s largest teachers union to blast the Republican governor in ads airing in Orlando and Tampa.