Jacksonville to partner with Duval County schools on COVID-19 testing

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Promising that details would come soon, Mayor Lenny Curry said Wednesday that the city and Duval County Public Schools would share the cost of providing coronavirus testing for public schools in Jacksonville.

“The School Board and our superintendent is working their plan to offer virtual learning or in-school learning for parents that want it. I am supportive of that effort,” Curry said. “I know they’ve got a lot of stressful, big, important decisions to make. ... Based on the information I have now, my children will be going back to school when they open for learning in person.”

In an agreement between DCPS and Duval Teachers United announced late Tuesday, the district agreed to spend $8 million to purchase rapid testing for district employees.

“A rapid response is more important because we could have it in hours,” DTU President Terrie Brady said. “So if a faculty member or a staff member or a student has any signs, they can be pulled out of the classroom and they can be sent to a facility or they can do the test right there on the school’s site.”

Dr. Elizabeth Ransom of Baptist Health said she was unsure what impact reopening schools in 15 days might have on health care capacity in Jacksonville.

“We know everyone is planning to be very cautious about that but we’re still, of course, worried about that,” Ransom said.

Asked why only five of the city’s 22 libraries had not reopened, the mayor said that most city service has resumed and more would be coming soon.

“City Hall is open. Those areas that I have direct control over, we are open for business. People are wearing masks when they’re in situations where they can’t practice socially distancing and I expect that other parts of the city will have more activity available and access to the public,” Curry said.

At his virtual news conference Wednesday, Curry announced another round of CARES Act funding for businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic would be opening soon. He said those on the waiting list would be addressed first.

Curry called Friday’s passing of Tropical Storm Isaias a “dry run,” and reminded people there were months to go in this year’s storm season and everyone should “have a plan, a kit, know your zone and be prepared.”

Curry praised City Council for unanimously passing a bill awarding $70 million to fund Jacksonville’s harbor deepening project and signed it into law. Using the slogan Make Your Mark Jacksonville, he also urged citizens to fill out their U.S. Census forms to ensure the city receives its fair share of government funding and representation. He said door-to-door visits to remind people would begin next Tuesday.

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