JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Reopening schools in Duval County amid the COVID-19 pandemic has become a hot button issue for district employees and parents of students, and on Tuesday, the superintendent called the back-to-school plan a “fluid” situation.
As the school district prepares for a return to the classroom, contact tracing -- the process of tracking down who came into contact with an infected person -- will become an important task should a student or employee test positive for COVID-19. It’s a process that will be conducted by the Duval County Health Department.
“We’re the ones who will be doing the contact investigations in schools any time there is a disease outbreak and help decide who gets to school and who does not,” said Dr. Pauline Rolle with the Health Department.
The Health Department wants to make clear it doesn’t set policy or procedures for the district. Its role is to conduct investigations and provide school leaders with data.
Rolle said contact investigations play a key roll in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
How does the process work? If a student or school employee has tested positive for the virus, a Health Department employee will ask the infected person to name everyone they have recently been in contact with. Every person on the contact list will be tracked down and warned that they have been in contact with person who tested positive for the COVID-19.
Each person on that list will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days in case they become ill. They will also be instructed to check their temperature twice daily and report any COVID-19 symptoms to their doctor.
“These are well established policies across the country,” Rolle said. “We’ve had a number of people reach out to us, wanting to be involved in contact investigations. We work closely with the state to hire the people we need to do this work and that is an established part of what we do here.”
In St. Johns County, school leaders declared any student who tests positive will have to self-quarantine at home for two weeks. If other students had contact with the infected student -- meaning they were within 6-feet of that student -- they too must self-quarantine.