District pivots based on case counts and lack of contact tracing

Editor’s Note: As of Sept. 27, 2021, some of the information in this article is outdated. The outdated information has been crossed out below, but is being saved for archive purposes.

Aug. 20, 2021 – With a small percentage of COVID-19 cases undergoing contract tracing investigation from the Department of Health, Duval County Public Schools will implement two strategies to better inform families of COVID-19 in elementary school communities and prevent further spread.

  • First — Classroom communication
    • Beginning on or before Aug. 25, if a case impacts an elementary school, families of students in the class of the infected individual will receive a letter informing them of the case.  The letter will not be a quarantine or “stay-at-home” order. It will simply inform families of the increased possibility that their student may have been in close contact to a presumed positive case of COVID-19.
  • Second – Transition to online if a class has multiple cases
    • Also beginning on or before Aug. 25, the district will transition an elementary class to online learning if two or more cases impact that class within a seven-day period. The duration of online instruction will depend on the timing of the positive case but is expected to last between two and seven days in most cases.
    • UPDATE – As of Sept. 27, the district will no longer transition elementary school classrooms to online learning. More information is available here: https://www.teamduval.org/2021/09/27/district-ends-practice-of-shifting-elementary-classrooms-online/

These strategies will be in place through mid-September. At that time, the district will re-evaluate the capability of the Department of Health to support contact tracing and adapt if necessary.

*Note: These new strategies will be in addition to the current communication methods the district uses to keep families informed. That includes a school sending a communication to its entire school community when a presumed positive case has been reported to them, and the COVID-19 dashboard.

Why this pivot?

These steps are necessary because the Department of Health has not been able to keep pace with the contact tracing case load since school began.  Under state law, The Florida Department of Health has the responsibility to confirm the positive case, conduct the contact tracing and case investigation, and notify families who are impacted. 

The Department has informed the district that it has assigned additional personnel to school cases, but the rapid spreading nature of the COVID-19 Delta variant currently exceeds the department’s capability to respond to all school cases within a meaningful timeframe.

The district is establishing laptop and hotspot distribution centers throughout the county to support families if classes are moved to online instruction. Details and locations of these centers will be announced soon.

The district has reported 492 presumed positive cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the school year. These cases have resulted in only 189 student and adult quarantines or “stay-at-home orders” for being close contacts to the infected person.

The district is taking these steps in elementary schools only because elementary school students are not eligible for vaccination. Parents are encouraged to provide consent for their children age 12 and older to get the vaccination.

What to do if a case is reported in your classroom or school

Due to the high level of community transmission of COVID-19 in our city, we encourage families to take the following five actions to slow the spread of the virus when a case is reported in your school:

  1. Be extra attentive to symptoms of COVID-19 in your child. These symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, new loss of taste or smell, fatigue, and headache. If you do see any signs of these symptoms, we recommend that your child stay home from school and seek testing and medical attention immediately.
  2. Wear a face covering when in the presence of others at school or elsewhere.
  3. Avoid close contact with others when possible, especially with friends and family at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
  4. Remind your child to wash their hands and use available hand sanitizer frequently. 
  5. If you and your child (age 12 and over) have not been vaccinated, please consider doing so as soon as possible.  See www.duvalschools.org/vax for COVID-19 vaccine event information.