Coronavirus cases in Northeast Florida schools skyrocket after winter break

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There was a dramatic increase in the number of reported positive cases of COVID-19 in schools after students around Northeast Florida returned to class last week following winter break.

Duval County was the first school district to announce changes amid the recent surge of cases fueled by the omicron variant. The district put field trips on hold and required teachers to wear masks while working with students.

But other school districts News4JAX spoke to on Monday said they are sticking with the protocols they have in place as cases increase.

In Duval County, there were a total of 29 student cases and six employee cases were reported the week before winter break. Last week, when students returned, there were 347 reported student cases and 145 reported employee cases with a 27% positivity rate.

Since Sunday, another 48 student cases and 48 staff cases were added with the most cases coming from Mandarin High School. DCPS said it will keep its stricter COVID protocols in place until the end of the month.

In St. Johns County, cases also dramatically increased after students returned.

The last day before winter break there were 31 students and 15 employees who reported cases. As of Friday, there were a total of 214 students and 113 employees with positive cases.

St. Johns County School District said it plans to keep its current safety protocols in place — which include optional masking, frequent cleaning and 75% capacity at sporting events — and continue to monitor the case numbers and quarantines.

In Clay County, a week before winter break there were 12 total student cases, one employee case. As of last week, there were 149 total student cases and 16 employee cases.

A Clay Schools spokesperson said the district is continuing to monitor the number of cases but plans to keep its current protocols in place.

“Clay County District Schools will continue to partner with our local department of health to respond to any new concerns that arise due to COVID-19. We are monitoring the new variant, and as we have from the beginning of the pandemic, we will remain transparent with our community about any potential change in protocols and safety measures in our schools. We will continue to make decisions in partnership from our local department of health, keeping student and staff safety as a top priority,” spokeswoman Laura Christmas said.

Health officials have urged students and teachers to wear masks in schools, especially during this recent surge in cases, and for students to get vaccinated if they are eligible.

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