TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health is providing some clarity on the report it published earlier this week on COVID-19 cases in public schools and universities, which doesn’t square with school district data.
It became apparent once the Department of Health released its data that the figures didn’t line up with those provided by school districts. Some schools were missing entirely. As it turns out, that’s because the report used different data than districts when it comes to listing positive cases.
The discrepancy has the Florida Education Association (FEA), the state’s largest teachers union, calling for more transparency from the Department of Health. FEA President Andrew Spar said the data released by the health department lacks context and clarity.
“It’s not a comprehensive report," Spar said. “It is not being laid out in a user-friendly way.”
For this report, a reporter compared the state’s data to the figures released by school districts in Duval and Leon counties.
While Duval County Public Schools reported 75 cases of COVID-19 from Sept. 6 to Sept. 26, the state reported 91 cases. During the same period, the state reported 40 cases in Leon County schools, compared to 64 reported by the school district there.
“It’s really on the governor’s shoulders to make sure that he’s telling the truth, that he is choosing to provide information that is clear, understandable and direct,” Spar said.
A representative for the health department said the reason for the differences is that the agency independently collects its data through labs and its own efforts — not from school districts. It also only reports schools that have identified at least one positive case of COVID-19.
Unlike schools, universities' data matches up more closely with what the state is reporting. Marshall Ogletree with United Faculty of Florida, a union representing college faculty, said it doesn’t matter which data set is being used: the numbers he and other university staff are seeing are concerning.
“Most universities have seen a spike and surge,” Ogletree said.
It’s important to note the state’s numbers don’t cover the entire school year and will only be updated once a week. For the most accurate picture on a day-to-day basis, education advocates recommend checking with your school district’s COVID-19 data dashboard.