Absolute Necessity’: Half Million Masks Donated To Miami-Dade County Public Schools As COVID Cases Rise

CBS4| by Peter D’Oench | October 28, 2020

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A generous gift of half a million facial masks was delivered Wednesday morning to the Miami-Dade County Public Schools teachers union. The masks will be distributed to teachers and staff across the school district as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise.

There are now 276 cases, according to the Miami-Dade County Public Schools dashboard. 188 students and 88 employees.

Miami-based FOH Health Essentials is donating 500,000 disposable facemasks for teachers, who can pick them up at UTD office headquarters located at Northwest 36th Street and 55th Avenue .

The donation is worth more than $250,000.

“From our hearts initiative, getting it out to people who needed it right in the beginning of the pandemic was extremely important. But look even now, people need PPE and so it was an absolute necessity, said FOH Health Essentials CEO Simone Mayer.

Mayer told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “We needed to get this out to teachers doing front line work. These are essential workers doing incredible work every day.”

“This could not come at a more appropriate time,” said UTD President Karla Hernandez-Mats. “We know that our teachers are scared, we know that the spiking of cases we’re seeing is district wide. And so this is important now more than ever.”

Hernandez-Mats also announced Wednesday that some 400 students and 20 teachers at Barbara Goleman Senior High School are in quarantine because of possible exposure to the coronavirus even though the dashboard shows the school has only three confirmed cases.

She said “This is very precarious. We know that children at Barbara Goleman are being put in an auditorium because they don’t have teachers to teach them in a classroom. They are bundling people up in one room where ventilation might not be adequate. We believe the school system needs to have better protocols, to have more systems in place. Something needs to happen because you are having a spike in schools. The virus comes in from the outside and puts our community and work force at risk.”

“When you have 400 cases of the quarantine there are bound to be more positive cases in the future,” she said. “They are just not showing up on the dashboard yet. Teachers are beyond anxious. We have teachers crying on the phone when they call us. There is so much anxiety about going to work. They just don’t know what to expect.”

Students at Barbara Goleman told D’Oench that in some cases they are being taught in the auditorium but those he spoke with did not seem worried about the rising number of quarantines.

Yenta Boyd, a 10th grader, said “I think they are doing it to be safe. They are trying to make it safe for us by not having so many kids in school.”

Norma Lara, a 10th grader, said “They have to do what they have to do to guarantee our safety.”

As she waited to pick up her daughter at Barbara Goleman Senior High School, Amanda Carballo said “It concerns me but I think the school system is being very pro-active with the quarantine and making students safe and following protocols for safety. I am acutely aware of the numbers but I think the school system is doing everything it can to handle it.”

Tuesday, Hernandez-Mats said 200 teachers and 17 students at Miami Senior High School were in quarantine because of possible exposure.

According to the dashboard, Miami Senior High has the highest number of confirmed cases with 9.

That’s followed by Kendale Lakes Elementary with 8.  Coral Reef Senior High, John A. Ferguson Senior High and Miami Lakes K-8 Center all have 7.  North Miami Senior High has 6 and Henry E. S. Reeves K-8 Center has 5.

Ten other schools have 4 cases, 16 schools have 3 and more than 100 others have either 2 or 1 case.

Putting this all in perspective, Miami-Dade School officials says quarantining students and teachers does not necessarily mean that there is a significant increase in cases and says that people are in quarantine because of the process of contact tracing.

For example, if one student tests positive, and they have six school periods a day with 20 kids in each class, that is already 120 students that will have to quarantine.

MDCPS’ communications office outlined the process.

A student either self-reports or the Florida Department of Health reports the case to the school.

The District School Health Office works with the Florida Department of Health to contact trace. They would determine if the student plays a sport or rides the bus, for example, and then notify those who were in contact with the student. Then, they have to quarantine for 14 days.

Miami-Dade Public Schools Office of Communications released this statement on Tuesday.

“The District COVID-19 Dashboard is not intended to be a real-time system for tracking self-reported employee and confirmed student cases. Families and employees should not rely on the dashboard to learn about cases in their school or worksite. They will be notified of self-reported cases at their school or worksite well ahead of that information being populated onto the dashboard.”

Miami Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has previously said with children returning to school, it was almost inevitable that there would be cases. He said the district and the schools are doing everything they can to keep students safe.

In addition, an independent doctor told CBS4 last week that Miami-Dade Public Schools were doing an excellent job protecting students.

Carvalho reminds parents to check their children every morning for symptoms and reminds employees to fill out their self-assessment health tests every single day.

School officials are notifying parents in schools with positive cases with robocalls and reaching out to parents of children who may have come into contact with those who tested positive for the virus.

In Broward County, the school district’s COVID-19 dashboard shows there have been 149 total cases, 74 students and 51 staff, in the last 30 days, impacting 93 sites. This database is updated twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Western High School has the highest number with seven student cases and Tradewinds Elementary has 4 student cases and 1 employee.

There is also a statewide dashboard from the Florida Department of Health, but the total number of cases on both dashboards don’t match. According to a Miami-Dade County Public Schools spokesperson, the reason they don’t match is because the schools dashboard only shows the students and employees who are attending in-person classes and not virtual learning, while the state dashboard includes all employees and students, whether they are at home or going to school.

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