ORLANDO, Fla. – A central Florida high school is shutting its doors for two weeks after it had six confirmed cases and one suspected case of the coronavirus, and health officials said more than a dozen students who attend the high school had been at a birthday party together.
Officials with Orange County Public Schools said over the weekend that Olympia High School's campus will be closed to students until Sept. 21 and all students will take online classes. There will be no athletic events or extracurricular activities during the two weeks, the school said on Twitter.
The decision to temporarily close the school comes more than two weeks after in-person classes resumed for the Orlando-area school district.
More than a third of Olympia's 3,300 students were taking classes on campus, with the rest of the student body taking online classes.
“This decision to pivot is out of an abundance of caution after several positive COVID-19 cases have been confirmed," the school said on Twitter.
At least 13 Olympia High School students had attended a birthday party together in late August, said Dr. Raul Pino, the Orange County health officer for the Florida Department of Health.
More than 150 students and staff were quarantined because of possible exposure to the virus, said Scott Howat, a spokesman for Orange County Public Schools.
“We knew that a school closure at some point was going to happen and we were prepared,” Howat said at a news conference.
In neighboring Osceola County, a middle school announced late last month that it was closing its campus for two weeks because of coronavirus cases.
Florida State University in Tallahassee reported that in the seven-day period ending Sept. 4, 3,429 tests were performed at a local civic center and 724 individuals tested positive for a positivity rate of 21.1 %. Overall, 839 students and 14 employees have tested positive since Aug. 2.
The spike comes after several social media posts showing photos and videos of off-campus student parties with no social distancing and few, if any, masks.
“Administrators are disappointed to see the public health guidance provided on multiple occasions has been disregarded by many,” the university said in an emailed statement. “FSU is again requesting local establishments and apartment complexes step in with appropriate restrictions where off-campus students are congregating.”
The university, which has almost 44,000 enrolled students, responded to the increase by prohibiting tailgating at Saturday's football game, telling fraternities and sororities they can't have non-member guests and reducing the size and number of student events. Florida State plans to begin random coronavirus testing next week.
By comparison, the University of Florida in Gainesville, which had more than 56,500 students enrolled last year, has been reporting test results since May 6. As of Tuesday, 338 students and 28 employees have tested positive. But of the 1,253 students tested at the campus health center, 272 tested positive for a positivity rate of 21.7%
Florida on Tuesday reported more than 1,800 new coronavirus cases, raising the state's total to 650,092 cases since March.
Florida had 12,067 resident and nonresident deaths as of Tuesday, a daily increase of 44 deaths.
Meanwhile, Florida continued to suffer an economic toll from the pandemic.
Orlando-based SeaWorld Entertainment said late last week in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it planned to permanently lay off workers who previously had been furloughed. The company, which has 10 theme parks across the U.S., will pay up to $3 million in severance costs. The filing didn’t say how many workers are involved.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood also notified state and local officials late last month that it would be permanently laying off 1,527 workers who had been furloughed.