TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The state's health department is now promising to publish COVID-19 case data for Florida schools.
In a Monday night statement, Florida Health's Director of Communications Alberto Moscoso said the "information will be made available in similar reports via www.FloridaHealthCOVID19.gov in the coming days and weeks."
"The department remains committed to public transparency and expeditiously providing the most up-to-date information available regarding COVID-19 in Florida," said Moscoso.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus
Officials had been mulling the question for nearly a month, telling us in statements from July to August that Florida Health was "continuing to review and determine the most appropriate method..."
The health department's decision to publish publicly comes as some of its school information was accidentally posted online over the weekend.
Moscoso called it "inadvertent" publishing of "draft" data.
Staff members have since taken down the reports, but they did give a peek at what future school data might look like in the future. Several pages in length, the drafts listed cases for day cares, K-12, and colleges by county. Age and race demographics were also available.
Virus data experts were happy to see the details but said things could be made more clear.
"Really excited to see it come out," said Jason Salemi, a professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida. "Certainly not surprised that it was removed from the repository more recently, but hopeful that it comes back with more granularity and specific definitions as to what we're looking at."
Specifically, Salemi wanted to know how Florida Health decided which cases to list on the reports. Officials had labeled them "associated cases." Salemi was uncertain about what that meant.
"Does it mean that this was deemed something caught in the school setting?" he asked. "Is this just anybody who is coming into the school, student or staff, who has become a case or become hospitalized?"
Florida Health already provides extensive COVID-19 case data for long-term care facilities and prisons. State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said that only happened after public pressure.
With the focus now on the release of school data, she was hopeful the department would follow through on its promise. The info, she said, is vital to safety as most districts return to in-person learning.
"Having data as a baseline is going to be really important for understanding was this the smart decision to make or is it causing a new spread -- and if so -- what do we do to stop it immediately," Eskamani said.