Sarasota Military Academy students participate in voluntary school contact tracing program

Through its Operation Outbreak, Sarasota Military Academy students have proven they have the tools to face COVID-19.

"It wasn’t a matter of if, but when. The goal is to always provide a very engaging scenario for students and teachers to help learn about different things," said Dr. Todd Brown.

Outreach Director Dr. Todd Brown partnered with top scientists from the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT to develop the curriculum.

Harvard Professor Pardis Sabeti, an epidemiologist who worked on the 2014 Ebola outbreak, was on the team that created a mock scenario where students worked to cut off the disease as it spread through campus.

Dr. Brown said the ability to use what they learned progressed much quicker than the team of scientists expected. He's now working with the same scientists to develop an online platform called SCOUT to track an infectious disease.

"When we see [COVID-19 TEST] results that are taking so long, it’s taken so many days before you can run contact tracing and potential spread. Then it’s too late. We are trying to stay ahead of that," said Dr. Brown.

The SCOUT program gets the ball rolling before the tests come back. At the first sign of sickness, a student logs on and checks off their symptoms. While they wait for their COVID-19 test result, staff can get started with contact tracing.

RELATED: So far, 63% of Hillsborough parents want students back on campus, superintendent says

Reporting symptoms through SCOUT is totally voluntary.

"We can look at it with seating charts so we can say you were exhibiting these symptoms yesterday, we can look back and see who was seated around you so we can look at what was going on. If someone exhibits the same symptoms we can say now we need to move very quickly," said Dr. Brown.

Only teachers and staff would have access to the data. It could easily be used outside of school to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

"They're going to have the opportunity to be involved in something that is a real-world scenario in which they simulated for years and years," said Dr. Brown.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know


Map of known COVID-19 cases:

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