The Flagler County school district has the third-highest rate of Covid infections among students and staff out of 38 Florida school districts that are reporting their Covid numbers since the resumption of the school year less than four weeks ago, a FlaglerLive analysis finds. There is still no “appetite” for changing course and adopting a mask mandate, according to the school board member who tried enacting one two weeks ago, though data points to a direct correlation between masks and lower infection rates in Florida districts.
Flagler’s 731 confirmed cases among students and staff so far, for a district with a student population of 13,123 equates to a rate of 55.7 per 1,000, behind only the Charlotte district (58.6) and Sumter (60.8).
None of the 18 counties with the highest infection rates had a mask mandate in place for most of the three to four weeks schools have been in session. The Sarasota, Lee and Indian River districts, which are among the top-most infected 18, enacted mandates this week. (Most school districts started either on Aug. 10 or in the week following.)
In contrast, Broward County, which has had a mask mandate since the beginning of school (a week later than Flagler’s start date), has the second-lowest infection rate among all counties with public reports, with a rate of 2.4 per 1,000. Five of the six districts with the lowest current infection rates have enacted mask mandates. The others are Duval (school start date: Aug. 10), Leon (Aug. 11) Volusia (Aug. 16) and Miami Dade. But Miami-Dade, the state’s largest school district, is an outlier: students returned on Aug. 23, which largely explains its infection rate of 0.6, lowest in the state. The mandate, however, may help keep its infections from spiraling out of control, according to the public health consensus.
“Data from just Florida counties, those counties that have adopted universal mask wearing in the schools, have shown reduced cases and close contacts associated with that district for Covid compared with those counties that have not,” Bob Snyder, who heads Flagler County’s Health Department, a state agency, said today, based on his own gleanings of data from across the state. (FlaglerLive’s numbers were not yet complete at the time.) “This is the data. The data is very telling. It’s a very effective mitigation strategy like we have been asking people to please consider.”
Palm Beach and St. Lucie recently enacted mandatory masking, each with infection rates of 18.6 per 1,000, among the lower in the state among reporting districts. But Martin, Osceola, St. Johns, Bay, Clay and Polk counties all have lower rates than Palm Beach and St. Lucie, and no mandates. St. Johns, with three and a half times the number of students in Flagler, has had almost the same number of actual infections overall (737) and has a rate of 15.8.
Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order banning mask mandates. The Florida Department of Health issued an emergency order the week schools re-opened, allowing a half-measure: mask requirements would be permitted as long as they provided parents an opt-out at parents’ discretion. Several districts went that route, though calling that sort of approach a “mandate” is a misnomer. Alachua and Broward counties enacted the more restrictive mandates, with opt-outs allowed only with a physician’s or a health care provider’s note. As cases have surged, the list of districts with similar mandates has continued to grow, with Volusia County schools joining it on Tuesday after an emergency meeting. Volusia Schools’ mandate will be in effect until at least mid-October, pending a re-evaluation of covid numbers.
The latest counties to enact mandates follow a ruling Friday by Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled DeSantis overstepped his authority when he issued a ban on mandates. The DeSantis administration is appealing.
Volusia approved its mandate even though it has the third-lowest rate of infections among the 38 counties reporting figures, and almost the same number of infections as does Flagler, though Volusia’s student population is almost five times that of Flagler.
The Flagler County School Board on Aug. 17 split 3-2 against adopting an emergency mask rule in the culmination of a raucous meeting that witnessed a long line of people who addressed the school board, largely–but not entirely–against such a mandate. Much of the information presented in opposition to making, however, was inaccurate or cribbed from social media as opposed to the more settled scientific consensus, including the Centers for Disease Control’s, that masks are effective as part of the strategy to diminish the spread of covid. The district had a mandatory masking rule in effect all of last year, when the full year’s infections totaled fewer than the numbers reached so far this year. The Flagler school administration has not shown an interest in reviving the subject, at least for now.
“I met with the superintendent and there does not seem to be an appetite for a universal mask mandate, or a mask mandate of any sort,” School Board member Collen Conklin said today.
Trevor Tucker, the chairman of the school board, has previously voted against a mandate but was not dogmatic about the issue. “I don’t have enough information one way or another to make a decision, and I’m sure we’ll have workshops in the future about this, is my guess,” he said today. As for an emergency meeting, he said: “I really think that depends on whether three board members want to do something, which would be next Tuesday, or if the superintendent would like to have an emergency meeting.” The board meets in workshop next Tuesday, but doesn’t have a decision meeting until the third week of September, unless a special meeting is called before that.
“I really want to get numbers before I make a determination one way or another,” Tucker said. “I really need to see more numbers, more data. I’ve kind of looked at data too, it’s all skewed, it’s all over the place. And I’d really like Tallahassee and the judges and the state to come to some type of unifying factor.”
But comprehensive data is in short supply.
The state Health Department on June 4 stopped issuing what had been somewhat detailed reports on covid’s spread and vaccinations, including pediatric and county-by-county reports, replacing them with abridged weekly reports for the entire state. A legislator and a non-profit are suing to re-gain access to the previous sets of numbers. There is no requirement that school districts report their covid numbers. Most, like Flagler, have chosen to do so, mostly through “dashboards.” But no two covid-reporting dashboards are alike. Much as the pandemic has been a 50-state response, lacking any sense of unified strategy, both school districts’ approach to the ongoing surge and the reporting of numbers has been a 67-county response, making a comprehensive portrait difficult to come by.
The numbers collected by FlaglerLive and published in the chart below are the first statewide look at the pandemic’s statistical profile in the schools. The numbers are only a snapshot in time, and are limited in scope and depth by the lack of the sort of more uniform numbers typically collected by state agencies. They reflect the improvised approach each county has taken–or not taken–in reporting covid figures. Twenty-nine counties simply report no numbers. Most have fewer than 10,000 students, but they also include Santa Rosa (28,600 students), Escambia (39,523), and Collier (47,706), which are not small. Even the reporting counties have their own quirks. Many don;t present cumulative numbers, listing weekly tallies instead. Some offer only the day’s tally. Several provide more transparency, offering both the number of infections and the number of impacted students and staff–those who have to quarantine–though only a few districts provide as complete a picture as daily reports showing breakdowns and percentages of schools’ staffing and student populations affected.
Because of the difficulties in gathering reliable numbers, the infection rate in the chart below is based on student population alone. Staffing numbers are inconsistently reported across counties. While rates for each county would be slightly lower if employees were included in population numbers, the difference between counties’ rate would remain in proportion. Infections among employees have been substantially lower than among students across the state.
|Baker||4,850||No||No public dashboard.|
|Bradford||2,797||No||No public dashboard.|
|Calhoun||2,057||No||No public dashboard.|
|Collier||47,706||No||Collier provides no cumulative numbers.|
|Columbia||10,256||No||Columbia provides no cumulative totals.|
|Miami‐Dade||351,353||204||0.6||Yes||School resumed on Aug. 23, so Miami Dade's numbers are not comparable to those of districts that started sooner.|
|DeSoto||4,716||No||DeSoto reports only the last two weeks' totals: 578 cases, for a per-thousand rate of 122.|
|Dixie||2,185||No||Dixie makes no mention of Covid anywhere on its website's home page or in any tabs.|
|Escambia||39,523||No||Covid webpage not functioning/not accessible.|
|Franklin||1,223||No||Dixie makes no mention of Covid anywhere on its website's home page or in any tabs.|
|Gadsden||4,745||No||Gadsden provides current numbers by day only, not cumulative numbers. Since Aug. 17, it has reported 54 cases, for a rate of 11.4.|
|Glades||1,737||No||Glades provides the last week's numbers only, not cumulative numbers. or links to previous reports|
|Gulf||1,836||No||No dashboard. Gulf schools closed due to Covid on Sept. 1, to reopen on Sept. 7.|
|Hamilton||1,552||No||No public dashboard.|
|Hendry||12,708||No||Hendry only provides "current" numbers (it does not specify the time scope).|
|Hernando||24,109||714||29.6||No||Hernando voted on Aug. 31 to impose a mask mandate but with parental opt-out, no doctor's note required.|
|Highlands||12,395||No||No public dashboard.|
|Hillsborough||242,336||6,803||28.1||Yes||Hillsborough schools imposed a restrictive 30-day mask mandate effective Aug. 19, with only a medical opt-out.|
|Holmes||3,103||No||No public dashboard.|
|Indian River||17,661||595||33.7||Yes||Indian River schools' mask mandate started on Aug. 30 and extends to Sept. 30, with medical-exemption only.|
|Jackson||5,870||No public dashboard.|
|Jefferson||781||No public dashboard.|
|Lafayette||1,163||No public dashboard.|
|Lake||44,990||1,904||42.3||No||The Lake County School Board is holding a special meeting "to discuss additional steps" on Covid mitigation on Sept. 2.|
|Lee||97,465||3,527||36.2||Yes||Lee County schools enacted a mask mandate effective Sept. 1, through Sept. 30, with only a medical opt-out.|
|Leon||33,570||447||13.31||Yes||Leon's numbers only reflect the last two weeks' cumulative numbers.|
|Levy||5,507||No||No public dashboard.|
|Liberty||1,215||61||50.2||No||Lee has posted numbers for only two weeks in August.|
|Madison||2,398||No||No public dashboard. No mention of Covid on the home page.|
|Manatee||49,912||1,857||37.2||No||On Aug. 16, the Manatee School Board approved a mask mandate but with a broad opt-out provision at parents' discretion, without a doctor's note or a religious exemption.|
|Marion||43,752||1,259||28.8||No||On Aug. 16, the Marion School Board approved a mask mandate but with a broad opt-out provision at parents' discretion, without a doctor's note or a religious exemption.|
|Monroe||8,543||180||21.1||No||Masks are required but with a broad pout-out provision at parents' discretion.|
|Nassau||12,462||No||Nassau only posts current-week numbers (73 for the week ending Aug. 27).|
|Orange||209,716||3,909||18.6||Yes||The Orange County School Board enacted a mandatory mask rule on Aug. 24, with an opt-out only with a note from a doctor or a health care provider.|
|Polk||111,898||1,467||13.1||No||Two Polk County schools employees have died in the past week due to Covid.|
|Putnam||10,703||No||Putnam schools' data is not cumulative, and was started only on Aug. 23.|
|Santa Rosa||28,600||No||Santa Rosa schools' data is not cumulative.|
|Sarasota||43,847||2,305||52.5||Yes||The cumulative figures date back to July 1. Sarasota passed its mask mandate on Aug. 30.|
|Suwanee||6,019||No||No public data dashboard.|
|Taylor||2,703||No||Taylor's data reflects only the latest day's available figures and are not cumulative.|
|Union||2,326||No||No public data dashboard.|
|Volusia||62,887||763||12.1||Yes||The Volusia County School Board adopted a mandatory mask mandate through Oct. 15, with only a medical opt-out.|
|Wakulla||5,048||No||No public data dashboard.|
|Walton||10,689||No||The district's Covid-data page is empty.|
(**) Cumulative students, teachers and staff.
(***) Mandatory mask mandates without parental opt-outs.
Note: the per-1,00 rate is based on student populations alone for consistency's sake. Infections among staff have been significantly lower across the state.
Merrill S Shapiro says
For quite some time, when our students were confronted with a danger, we all worked to remove that danger from their paths. Now, our government leadership constitues a danger to our students. We all need to work together to remove that danger from the paths of our students.
There are no heroes coming for Flagler County. A clear message to the youth of or county from those meant to keep the their best interest are insured. We Don’t care about you! Your safety does not matter.
Ted Underhill says
Still harping on the lack of heroes. I agree that Flagler and the rest of our state are in peril with Ronnie playing partisan politics roulette with our children’s safety. Ronnie you overstepped your authority and got burned publicly, the only way you can save face now is to do the right thing.
Get off the couch says
Are any sane pro-protecting children parents attending school board meetings and voicing their outrage at the lack of oversight and caring coming from FCSB and the Superintendent?
My God, my children are grown and moved away from this place to find lucrative careers and culturally enriched lives.
Somebody, please tell me you parents and Grandparents are fighting the system that obviously doesn’t care about your children or Grandchildren.
Get off the couch and do the right thing before it’s too late.
Masks, distancing and all other mitigation efforts should be mandatory at all Flagler Co. Schools.
FCSB you need to stop forcing your political beliefs on our children. Covid is a public health crisis, Not a political or religious belief!
Nanci Whitley says
perhaps they are concerned about being assaulted by all the maga nuts at these meetings.
It is obvious that our local government and especially our school board doesn’t care about the teachers, children or staff in the schools. Remember that when you vote for them again!! I am really angered like the total disregard for the safety of people in Flagler county!
Shame on you to the Flagler County School Board for not passing a mask mandate and now having our schools be third highest school district for Covid rates. Mr. Tucker, how much more information do you need to have to show that mask mandates are bringing down Covid infections? Why don’t you read the statistics above? You say you want to wait for this or that meeting, but why can’t you realize that our emergency is NOW!! Will it be that painful for the Board to pass mask mandates for a trial period of two to three months? If you feel so sorry about the possibility of taking away the children’s rights for freedom, please think about the adults working in the schools. Or perhaps those who still wish to vote no should take a tour of the ICU at our hospital and realize there is such a virus called Covid. I’m sure those reading this know one specific member I’m referring to.
Again, there are parents who want only freedom for themselves and their children. They are selfish and ignorant; and I don’t see them protesting against their small children having to be in a car seat when they would rather not be buckled in for their SAFETY.
Sondra L Hebscher says
SO well said. Do you think the threat of having salaries withheld may have affected school board decision?? OUR CHILDREN FIRST! DeSantis is wrong. Parents who refuse to mask for no clear reason should be homeschooling or virtually if we have enough teachers to do that. We went through an entire school year with3 kids here, including a kindergartner with no trauma.
Mullins was on WNZF last week , claiming he can’t wear a mask because he can’t get enough oxygen . I had to turn off the BS and no one on WNZF called him out on that when he said that nonsense .
Bump on a log says
8 Days After Revealing Daughter’s Infection, Commissioner Joe Mullins Says He Has Covid–Again, Per Fagler Live article. Maybe wearing that mask could have help prevent him from being infected 2x, but now is dealing with the side effects of the infection he can no longer breath with a mask on. I bet his daughter went to school not wearing a mask, became infected and brought it home to daddy. Isn’t it ironic?!?!
trailer bob says
“Flagler’s 731 confirmed cases among students and staff so far, for a district with a student population of 13,123 equates to a rate of 55.7 per 1,000”
“Palm Beach and St. Lucie recently enacted mandatory masking, each with infection rates of 18.6 per 1,000”
You don’t have to be a scientist to get this…you just have to have passed at least a 3rd grade math class.
If these morons had any common sense they would get this.
The dude says
My wife just texted me. She teaches at a HS in St. John’s. They had an emergency faculty meeting today because one of their students died from COVID.
Owning the libs… one dead child at a time…
Sondra L Hebscher says
So sad……….and probably unnecessary. Rest in Peace little one.
My grandson who wears a mask daily and is aware of the rules against mask mandates tells me, “They don’t care about us. They don’t even care if we get sick and die. Maybe they want us dead. ” Is this really the message our local school board members and state leaders want to give our children? I have written to all school board members and tried to weigh in on this subject publicly whenever possible but it’s having no effect. There is no live option of remote learning this year. Do the children have to just fend for themselves? Where are the adults?????
It is simply incomprehensible to try to understand the reasoning of the 3 un-caring Board Members. Please Mrs. Conklin and Massaro don’t give up and try to teach the unteachables. Our children’s future is in the hands of the Board, or should I say the lack of future for the students and staff is in the majority of the Board’s dirty hands.
Mike Cocchiola says
Flagler County is lost to the Republican Party know-nothings. Republicans hold nearly all of the elected offices in the county. We are now officially led by science deniers, anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, bigots, and QAnon followers. They care nothing for people who did not follow them down the Fox rabbit hole. They are unprincipled cowards who govern in fear of extremist evangelicals, the Liberty Coalition, Sheriff Staly and Ron DeSantis. All they do care about is carrying forward their culture war and collecting their next paycheck.
So, people will die and there is neither accountability nor consequences. And we keep electing these fools. Our bad.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Usually pretty able to communicate my thoughts rather easily I find myself tongue-tied at the insanity of making a big deal out of putting a f….g piece of cloth on your mouth to protect yourself and everyone around you. The selfishness combined with utter ignorance topped off with stupidity me me me crowd have no problem all of a sudden turning to the medical profession for HELP – after they are infected. How many others aside from DeathSantis are investing in the ‘after you get Covid treatment?
He was around the state pushing a cure instead of a PREVENTION- but of course there are no kickbacks from pushing vaccines in my opinion.
If masks made people sick most women living in the backwards middle eastern countries should be in hospitals all the time or die very young!
Mullins can’t breathe – too bad. Stage 4 COPD is inconvenient but I manage fine with a mask . Stay home Mullins if masks bother you – don’t you dare come to the county building to infect the rest of us without a real written medical clearance.
How many of you anti-vaxers and anti maskers refused your small pox shots, polio shots, tetanus, typhoid and diptheria booster shots. Do you even know? So you even care? No because your parents just made sure they protected YOU and those around you. Too bad you all turned out to be selfish ignorant jackasses.
Too bad that you are making those of us who care about each other pay the price of your insanity ( in my opionion)
joseph falis says
you cannot reason with a closed mind
no mention of how many are in the hospital. only cases.
anyone dying?(from the schools)
are they doing contact tracing?
are they getting at school or outside of school.
only partial info to keep the sheep under their beds
been to a store lately only people wearing mask are over 90.
I mask when in a store because my wife is under going BC treatment.
had the hongkong flu in 69 (11-12 years old) 2 weeks in bed
stop watching CNN and get on with your life
Hey cgm says
So let me ask you this CGM since you seem to want numbers,what if the number dead was only one ,would that make a difference to you?
How about if that one was your wife, how would you feel then? Especially knowing she would still be here if someone only covered their nose and mouth with a MASK.
I guess you will only care when it hits you or someone you love.
Unfortunately a lot of people like you will learn when it’s too late.
Nobody says People can not wear masks in Flagler schools, it’s just not MANDATORY. So wear your masks if you choose & parents protect YOUR children as you see fit- wear mask, wear underwear, get vaccinated, feed dinner, buy toothbrushes, give birth control, whatever. It’s not the school’s job to be the parent and mandate. Kudos to our board for keeping the focus on what they are paid to do which is educate kids and not be political jockeys.