Every school will have at least 1 case of COVID-19 on first day, doctor says

Hillsborough County parents should expect at least one case of COVID-19 in every school, starting on day one, Tampa General Hospital ER Dr. Jason Wilson said Tuesday.

Dr. Wilson, who has become one of the leading experts on COVID-19 in the county, says his assertion is based on statistical probability. According to current infection rates, one in every 100 people in Hillsborough County has the disease.

"Whether your school is a 100-person, a 500-person or a 1,000-person school, we really have to go in expecting five or six cases per building, essentially, per school building, on day one," Wilson said.

When students, teachers, and staff are all back in their classrooms, Wilson said the virus will spread exponentially.

Ahead of Hillsborough County's Thursday meeting to finalize its reopening plan, Dr. Wilson is urging them to take a hard look at the data.

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"From a purely medical standpoint, there's no way the data says that right now we're in a position where it's the best decision to put a lot of people back into a building together," Wilson said. "We are certainly concerned that, again, indoor area, large groups, long period of time, this is the set-up for a super spreader event."

Superintendent Addison Davis said the district has partnered with medical experts as it works its way toward a final decision. Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, voiced concerns this week about the long-term effects of keeping schools closed.

"The default position should be to try as best as you can to open up the schools for in-person learning," he said, adding opening schools needs to be done when it's safe to do so.

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The Hillsborough County School Board tentatively passed the superintendent's reopening plan last month with an Aug. 24 delayed start date. Board members rejected proposals for a nine-week online-only start to the school year, but plan to revisit that idea this week.