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Jacksonville doctor voices concerns about COVID-19 surge as kids near return to school

A surge in COVID-19 cases has Jacksonville medical experts concerned, especially with children going back to school soon.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A surge in COVID-19 cases has Jacksonville medical experts concerned, especially with children going back to school soon.

Dr. Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval County Medical Society Foundation, said Friday that Florida’s school districts may need to rethink their safety policies for the upcoming school year.

“We’re starting to see the numbers go up, and that is incredibly concerning to see the spike,” Dr. Joshi said. “The way it’s going up right now, as well, it’s not just a gradual increase, I mean these numbers are spiking.”

Joshi, the founder of Family Allergy and Asthma Consultants, was attending an immunology conference in Orlando. He said it’s not shocking to see the surge in coronavirus cases because the COVID-19 delta variant is so virulent.

RELATED: Lack of vaccine access for kids under 12 leaves parents in limbo

The surge in Jacksonville comes as the White House identified Florida as the state responsible for nearly 20 percent of new infections seen nationwide. The Sunshine State has recorded 45,000 cases in the last week, nearly double the previous week.

As Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Wolensky pointed out Friday, regions where vaccination rates are lower seem to be affected more by the spike in new cases.

Like other Northeast Florida communities, Duval County is contributing to the increase. According to the Florida Department of Health, Duval saw 4,428 new cases in the last seven days, a 21.9% positivity rate.

“Here in Duval County, where we’re roughly at a 42% vaccination rate, our cases are spiking at a much higher rate than they are in other parts of the country where vaccination rates are higher,” Joshi said.

Even so, the doctor said, he said people likely didn’t expect Jacksonville to be so heavily hit.

Joshi said the surge in cases could pose bigger concerns as young people, children 12 and under, aren’t eligible to get the vaccine yet, even as they’re scheduled to return to school in a matter of weeks.

“If numbers of positive tests are increasing, you know when the numbers are 5% positive, that’s a decent level of community spread,” he said. “When you’re at 18% and 19% positive, the community spread is now significant.”

If Florida is seeing those kinds of figures over the next few weeks, Joshi said, it would be wise for officials to reevaluate safety measures for school-aged children.

“When you have a group of children who aren’t vaccinated… it seems to me that there needs to be a reconsideration as to whether or not those groups of children should at least have masks,” he said.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.