Mom says schools aren’t doing enough to protect children ineligible for COVID-19 vaccine

SEMINOLE COUNTY, FLA. — A Seminole County mom said the school district didn’t do enough to keep her son safe after her middle school student tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and was hospitalized Friday.

“We thought everything was fine, and then he in the middle of the night was coughing a lot and had a lot of trouble breathing,” Emily Orey said from her son’s hospital room.

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She asked us not to identify her son, but said he’s done everything he can to protect himself from getting the virus.

“He religiously wears his mask to school, even walking home from school to get in the car, he always has it on,” Orey said.

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Seminole County Public Schools’ policy requires a mask in the classroom, but allows parents to opt their child out with a note.

Orey said she feels that’s not enough for students under 12 like her son, who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated yet.

“The Seminole County school district has failed to act to keep my child safe, and now, here we are,” Orey said.

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In response, the district said all families were given the option to go virtual and were even allowed extra time to enroll after the governor banned districts from full mask mandates.

The district said its policy follows the state’s order that parents must have an opt-out option.

At this point, a little more than 17% of Seminole County students have opted out.

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Other surrounding districts, like Orange County, have gone against the state and required masks unless the child has a health exemption from a doctor.

The district’s dashboard shows Orey’s son’s school shows zero active cases and zero quarantines, which should be impossible with her son’s positive test.

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But the district said the lag time for its dashboard can be days long and that it should only be viewed as a snapshot and not a real-time resource because it’s only updated twice a week.

Orey said she hopes her son’s story helps other parents understand the dangers of this virus in children.

“And that even if you are so careful, like we have been, that it will and can literally happen to anyone,” she said.

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.