JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A common question as nervous parents send their children back into Duval County Public Schools classrooms on Thursday has been how they will know if their child has been exposed to COVID-19.
It will be the role of the Duval County Health Department to inform parents if a student has been exposed to coronavirus.
According to Dr. Pauline Rolle, interim director of the Florida Department of Health in Duval County, exposure usually means being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes.
“When we do our contact investigation, there are a number of things that we will take into consideration, including the size of the classroom, number of students in the classroom, how close they were sitting together, how far away the teacher was -- if the teacher is the one that has COVID-19 in that classroom,” Rolle said in an interview Thursday on The Morning Show. “Is there a seating chart? Did kids stay in their assigned seating? Are they cohorted? Did they go to lunch together? Were they on a bus together? There are a number of factors we will consider when doing contact tracing to determine who needs to be excluded from school.”
A Health Department employee will track down every person on the exposure list to warn them that they have been in contact with a person who tested positive for 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.
Rolle explained that information on positive cases is on a need-to-know basis because of medical privacy laws, but that those who need to be informed will be contacted.
“It is absolutely necessary that those folks who were exposed know immediately that they were exposed so they can take the proper precautions,” Rolle said. “(But there won’t be) any mass messaging going out to an entire school, as that may not be necessary.”
The Health Department doesn’t set policy or procedures for the district. Its role is to conduct investigations and provide school leaders with data.
Parents are asked to keep their children home if they have any symptoms of illness, but if a child develops symptoms while at school, they will be taken to a designated isolation room and a parent will be called to pick the child up.
“That way we get them out of the school system, get them assessed by their primary care provider, an/or get them tested if needed,” Rolle said.
Rolle said students aren’t required to be tested if they have symptoms but parents are asked to do so if they can. Either way, students must remain at home until they are symptom-free and if COVID-19 is suspected, they must stay home at least 10 days.
”It is best that they see their primary care provider to be assessed to determine if there may be another reason for the illness -- with regards to quarantine,” Rolle said.
Rolle said it’s important for students and teachers to wear masks throughout the day -- and wear them properly -- to prevent the spread of the virus. But even if masks are worn in the classroom, it won’t eliminate the need to quarantine students or faculty who came in contact with someone who has COVID-19.