Over 5,000 students quarantine or isolate because of Covid in Florida school district

More than 5,000 students and hundreds of employees in a single Florida school district have tested positive for Covid-19 or may have been exposed to the coronavirus, school officials said Monday.

Hillsborough County Public Schools said in a statement that 5,599 students and 316 staff members are 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.

The school district called an emergency board meeting for Wednesday at 1 p.m. to discuss measures "up to and including mandatory face coverings for all students and staff."

The district, which includes Tampa, serves over 200,000 students in more than 200 elementary, middle and high schools, according to its website. It is the seventh largest in the country.

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

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

Florida broke its record for daily confirmed Covid cases this month.

Speaking Friday to MSNBC, Davis said the district would mandate masks while allowing parents to opt out.

"We're going to 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 whether opting out of the proposed mask mandate would be considered Wednesday.