LAND O’ LAKES – “We need your help.”

That was the overriding message from Pasco Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning in an online video released Monday. With positive COVID-19 cases rising throughout the area, Browning told viewers he needed their assistance or school life will be further affected.

“Since the start of the school year, we have allowed schools to hold many events that enhance the educational experience, including musical and theatrical performances and sporting events,” he said. “If the infection rate locally continues on an upward trend and we continue to see an increase is cases in our schools, we will have to seriously consider curtailing or eliminating such activities to protect the health and safety of our students and our staff.”

The Pasco County Schools website, pasco.k12fl.us, tracks COVID-19 cases among students and staff. Entering Tuesday, 323 students and 131 staff members tested positive. Those positives impacted 6,203 students and 568 staff members. Impacted individuals are those who are found to have been in close contact with a positive case and must quarantine before returning to school.

Pasco County entered Tuesday with 11,863 known positive cases and 250 COVID-related deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We’ve been reviewing the numbers and the trends and here’s where we are right now,” Browning said. “We need your help. I want to make sure that everyone is aware that we are headed into a challenging time that could force us to make some difficult decisions.”

Since schools began restarting sports seasons and other activities, a number have been postponed or canceled because of COVID cases. Browning’s message to students, staff and families was that it all may come to an end if the trend continues. The high school football season enters the postseason this week and winter sports like soccer and basketball are just beginning.

While Pasco Schools have done well reopening during the pandemic, Browning said, positive tests are rising because of people letting their guards down outside of school.

“Much of this remains within our control,” he said. “Safe distancing and wearing masks have helped tremendously but we know that many of our students and staff have let their guards down when they leave school or work. Most of the cases affecting our schools are coming from outside our schools. In many instances, students and staff members have had to quarantine because they were unnecessarily exposed to someone who later tested positive.

“This is preventable. Many of these cases could have been avoided. As a reminder, if someone is in quarantine, this means they must refrain from attending school and community events for the timeframe designated by the Department of Health.

“It is extremely important that we all remain vigilant, especially with the holidays fast approaching.”