Sometime in the late evening on September 29, 2020, the Florida Department of Health released a “detailed” look at the data they feel comfortable sharing with the public about COVID-19 cases in K-12 schools.
The data lists cases from Sept. 20-26 and from Sept. 6-26 separately, for students and various levels of staff. It also lists symptomatic/not symptomatic. And this data is for every school in the state (except all the ones they left out- more about that later).
To get this snapshot out within a few hours of the data being released, I’ve aggregated the data by county for this analysis.
You can access their pdf directly here (assuming they don’t again delete it), or download the aggregated table or shapefile here.
Let’s start by taking a look at the big numbers.
Before the release of this data, The Covid Monitor reported cases in Florida k-12 schools based on the data being released from school districts themselves.
The Covid Monitor’s Data (37 districts reporting)
3,123 total cases
984 staff and
139 not specified
That goes back to the earliest date for each of the 37 counties that had published their own data online. Some districts started earlier than others, but all by August 31.
About 75% of students enrolled/staff working at Florida schools were represented by those 37 districts. Meaning the public had zero data about the other 25%, but a fair chunk of the state, all things considered.
DOH’s report only shows data from September 6 through September 26 (they don’t say why that’s the limit, but there it is).
Here’s their figures for that time period:
DOH’s data, from Sept. 29, 2020 (all 67 districts reporting)
2,643 total cases
Houston, we have a problem.
That’s 480 fewer cases than officially reported by 37 of 67 districts since August.
When you compare the data between the districts and the state, accounting for the time period limitation, there are some significant differences overall.
|Data||DOH Data (67 counties)||Districts Data (37 counties)|
There are also a few similarities.
In DOH’s data, 71% of cases are students.
In the district data, 65% of cases are students.
In the 30 counties not reporting themselves (so excluding self-reporting districts), 77% of cases were students. Cases reported by DOH in districts not previously captured by The Covid Monitor are all of 654 total cases, so a shockingly small contribution to the bucket
Our policy at The Covid Monitor is to defer to districts when state and district data don’t align. We’ve built relationships with schools and work to figure out the discrepancies, something my team at The Covid Monitor will be very busy working on through this week.
So what we end up with is a mix of state and district data, often with no explanation of what either is reporting, why they are reporting that why, why they’ve chosen to remove schools or count cases like this or that, etc.
Totals of state and districts reporting
3,777 Total Cases
2435 students (64%)
1203 staff (32%)
139 not specified (4%)
One of my first questions was: in districts that are self-reporting, is the data from DOH the same?
In most cases, no, it isn’t.
In the table below, we’re looking at whether or not a district reported more cases in students and staff (over), less (under), or about the same (even), compared with DOH data for the same county over the Sept. 6-26 period.
Under-reporting could be the result of slow contact-tracing, a school defining its own “active” case terms, or indiscriminately removing cases at their discretion.
Over-reporting most likely means the district is becoming aware of cases directly from people in its school (students and staff), and doesn’t need to wait for DOH. Or that the district is including cases that for some reason DOH isn’t.
Neither is necessarily good or bad, provided the different circumstances that could lead to either result. With communication, we could better understand why these discrepancies exist and how to rectify those differences.
Though in general, I would be cautious about trusting a district that consistently under-reports. They may be removing cases without cause. And knowing how much DOH didn’t include in their report (confirmed cases across the state) and their chronic under-reporting, a district the under-reports what DOH is reporting is worrisome.
I’d be more likely to trust a school district that is over-reporting, because it most likely means the students, families and staff feel comfortable reporting their positive tests to the school directly, rather than waiting for DOH to disclose (which they may never do).
|District||Student Reporting||Staff Reporting|
There’s another statistic in there that DOH is likely hoping you won’t notice in their giant spreadsheet – the figures of symptomatic vs asymptomatic.
Across all counties (using only the DOH data), 76% of cases reported one or more symptom. 19% did not report symptoms, and there’s no data for the remaining 5%
That may seem unexpectedly high at first.
But if you’ve been paying attention to recent research on the subject, you’d know that 76% symptomatic is actually a low figure. The CDC showed that only 3% of school-aged children reported having no symptoms.
We’ll talk more about how this data compares with the recent CDC report on cases in school-aged children from May to Sept tomorrow, both here on our blog, on The Covid Monitor site, and with CNN’s Don Lemon.
We’ll also get into temporal data, which this DOH document does not provide.
It’s important to note that most of the schools in Miami-Dade/Broward/Palm Beach counties were online for the majority of this period, and some are continuing online into October.
Diving into the school data later this week:
When we drill down to the school-level data provided by DOH, the problems get even worse.
My son’s school confirmed its two cases during the time period of DOH’s reporting. I found about those cases first from an anonymous tip to The Covid Monitor. His school is not even listed in the DOH data. From the responses online within the first few hours of this report being released, a lot of schools were left off from this data. We’re working to validate exactly what was removed and why in the next few days.
Here are the 10 schools DOH claims have the most case, Consistent with district and CDC findings, all but one are high schools.
|School||County||Level||Student Cases||% Reporting one or more symptom|
|PACE HIGH SCHOOL (PACE)||Santa Rosa||High||30||97|
|COTTONDALE HIGH SCHOOL||Jackson||High||18||89|
|BAKER COUNTY SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL||Baker||K-12||13||100|
|OLDSMAR CHRISTIAN SCHOOL||Pinellas||High||13||77|
|CHOCTAWHATCHEE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL||Okaloosa||High||12||100|
|HARDEE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL||Hardee||High||12||58|
|A. CRAWFORD MOSLEY||Bay||High||10||100|
|WEST ORANGE HIGH||Orange||High||10||90|
|NEWSOME HIGH SCHOOL||Hillsborough||High||10||60|
|WAKULLA HIGH SCHOOL||Wakulla||High||9||100|
Something I’ll discuss more in the coming days is how teacher cases are far more likely to occur in the elementary setting than they are the high school setting. In fact, according to DOH, there are only 17 schools in the state where more than 1 teacher has had a confirmed case – 78% were in elementary schools.
Of course this data is absolutely wrong, because Hillsborough alone reported 43 schools in its district with more than teacher or staff member case, totaling 58 cases in all. 43% were elementary staff, 38% high, and 19% middle.
Across the 20 districts that report cases by student/staff by grade level, the percent of student-staff cases goes from 54% student – 38% staff in elementary schools, to 70% student – 21% staff in high school.
The counties that report data for cases by student and staff by school level are:
We have more coming, so stay tuned!