As 1st day of school nears, Baker County’s new COVID-19 cases appear to be from community spread

The norm over the last couple of weeks is for Baker County to see a dozen or more new cases a day

MACCLENNY, Fla. – It appears the new coronavirus cases in Baker County are from community spread and not from long-term care facilities or jail and prison facilities.

In Baker County, 17 new COVID-19 cases were added Monday and 20 additional cases were recorded on Tuesday. Though six new cases were reported Wednesday in the county, the norm over the last couple of weeks is for the county to see a dozen or more new cases a day.

In the daily reports from the Florida Department of Health, there haven’t been many new cases in the county’s jail and prison facilities and long-term care facilities. On Tuesday, three more COVID-19 cases were added at the county jail, while there was no change to the total number at Baker Correctional Institution and there also was also no movement on hospitalizations or new cases linked to local long-term facilities, meaning the new cases are happening outside these facilities.

Meanwhile, parents have been doing some back-to-school shopping before school starts Monday for Baker County students.

Blakely Mallory, a rising senior at Baker County High School, said she tries not to pay attention to the coronavirus numbers.

“I really just don’t want to know any of that honestly, you know, because that causes a lot of fear in people and I don’t wanna be part of that,” Mallory said.

At first, Mallory decided she was going to complete senior year online but later changed her mind.

“I just like the online school a lot better. I thought it was easier for me,” Mallory said. “But I didn’t want to miss out on my senior year, so I decided to come back.”

The Baker County School District posted a document of health and safety guidelines for reopening campuses which includes strict sanitation and screening before school. But masks will not be required on campus and are only optional.

“I’m a little nervous,” said Jessica Yarbrough, who has a daughter who will be starting pre-K. “I’m nervous for her but I’m excited for her.”

Yarbrough said she has kept up with the COVID-19 cases in Baker County.

“Yes, I have,” she said. “It’s crazy. It’s wild”

But even with her concerns, she wants her outgoing daughter, Jaycee, to start school among peers.

“She’s excited. She’s ready to go,” Yarbrough said.

The Florida Department of Education approved the Baker County School District’s reopening plan on July 30. The plan states physical distancing is just not possible in many areas of campus, but schools will maintain smaller groups of students in shared spaces.

While most of the larger school districts in Northeast Florida have pushed back school start dates, Baker County voted to keep its original start date of Aug. 10.

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