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Suwannee Teachers Union president disputes DOH school case totals

Published: Jan. 26, 2021 at 9:50 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The president of United Teachers of Suwannee County is speaking out again, this time with concerns about how the state is tracking positive coronavirus cases in its schools.

Eric Rodriguez first made headlines last August, asking district leaders to consider a mask mandate as students returned to class. The School Board decided against the measure.

Fast forward to January, and Rodriguez has a new target: Local and state health officials.

Rodriguez says he has talked to at least seven of his fellow teachers at Suwannee High School who tested positive for COVID-19 since October.

But the state’s collection of cases per school shows zero teachers at SHS have been diagnosed with the disease.

“Somebody has got some explaining to do,” Rodriguez said Tuesday afternoon, ahead of a school board meeting in Live Oak.

“That takes our school from one of the ones with least Covid [teacher cases] to one of the most. This is a huge error”

Inside a crowded school board meeting, Rodriguez used his public comment time to share printed charts with school board members. He asked them to look into the discrepancy. Several members voiced some confusion, or a desire to learn the truth.

Superintendent Ted Roush explained to the room that he takes no part in tracking cases.

“We rely solely on the Florida Department of Health for the data we receive,” he said.

After a few minutes, they moved the agenda along. WCTV left the meeting soon after, but was later told by a school board member that the county’s health department administrator, Kerry Waldron, showed up midway through the meeting.

According to the school board member, Waldron explained the data discrepancies as likely a part of a “large dumps” problem. Waldron said that large testing companies (like CVS) gather thousands of test results into databases and only occasionally pass them along to state and local officials.

Using that logic, it means the data from the school report isn’t necessarily wrong, simply slow to update.

WCTV reached out to Waldron to confirm those statements, but was told to reach out to the state communications officials for comment. A request to the agency was left unanswered Tuesday night.

Either way, Rodriguez remains critical of the school district’s efforts to contain the virus, and argues this saga should be eye-opening.

“Knowing these health department numbers are wrong, it really begs the question, is what we’re doing here safe, not following CDC guidelines in pretty crowded schools?,” he said.

A school board member told WCTV he is proud of his district’s efforts to sanitize facilities and keep students safe.

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