Duval teacher hears about student coronavirus infections from parents, not the health department

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Teachers and their families are concerned about the number of positive cases reported in schools but, they say, they’re more concerned about what’s not being reported.

News4Jax spoke to a Duval County teacher who tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday who said she should’ve known about her exposure at least a day earlier.

The teacher, who did not want to be identified, said she watched as several of the students in her classes called out sick over the past week.

She later learned they had tested positive for COVID-19 and found out not from the health department or the school district, but from the students’ parents.

“Several of her students in a classroom tested positive for COVID. And she was not notified by the school or anyone else that they had COVID,” said Maureen, who agreed to speak to News4Jax on the condition that we don’t reveal her last name.

Maureen’s daughter teaches at Sandalwood High School, the district’s most-populated school, and on Monday, tested positive for COVID-19.

“I was just with my daughter this weekend with my whole family, including a two-month-old newborn, and we will all exposed to it. If we had known that she was exposed, we wouldn’t have gotten together,” she said.

Maureen’s daughter said she was frustrated when she was notified by her students’ parents instead of the Florida Department of Health, the agency tasked with performing contact tracing and notifying those who’ve been exposed.

Earlier this year, the Duval County Public Schools dashboard was updated to display positive cases as soon as they’re reported to the district. That change was made because of the backlog of pending cases at the Department of Health, the department just wasn’t confirming and contact tracing the new cases fast enough.

But Maureen and her daughter said there’s likely an even bigger problem with COVID-19 tracking. They say parents aren’t always reporting when their children test positive.

That means, rather than the school knowing about the positive case in a matter of minutes or hours, the Department of Health likely won’t get that information to the school for days or even weeks.

“There definitely needs to be more communication between the school, the health department, the teacher to the teachers, they need to know what’s going on in their classrooms,” Maureen said.

The teacher also said her classroom has been full since the return from winter break with no space for social distancing at all.

News4Jax asked the health department at the state and county level about the amount of “pending” cases it has yet to perform contact tracing on.

News4Jax did not get a response by the time this story was published.

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