JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County Public Schools on Friday sent an email to parents of students, informing them that the Department of Health in Duval has announced it will no longer conduct contact tracing of positive COVID-19 cases in schools.
The Department of Health has been doing contact tracing in Duval County schools since students returned to classrooms amid the pandemic in 2020. Contact tracing is done to identify others who were in close contact with someone who received a positive COVID diagnosis.
DCPS said in response to the DOH’s decision, the district will notify families of elementary students when a positive case has been present in their child’s classroom during that week.
Letters will go to families at the end of the school day when the first case in a classroom is reported. DCPS said the school will only send one letter per class per week notifying parents of a possible exposure. If a second case is reported in the same class during the same week, a second letter will not go out.
“Unlike the Department of Health, the district has no authority to direct quarantine or isolation of potentially exposed people,” the district writes in its letter to parents.
The district will also include what it’s calling a “decision tree” to assist families in making decisions about steps to take based on whether their children are showing symptoms of the virus.
Some parents are split on the change to contact tracing. A News4JAX Facebook commenter wrote: “I got calls every day and loved it because I knew how many cases were in his school. He just got one in his class. I think they should still do it.”
Laurel Martinez is the parent of a Duval County student.
“For my household, I don’t really think contact tracing is necessary,” Martinez said. “At this point, we’ve been in this pandemic for so long, I mean, who has not been exposed?”
DCPS said notifying parents on a classroom basis is only for elementary students “because elementary students tend to experience school with more limited exposure to other children and teachers.”
DCPS said because students in middle and high schools change classes throughout the day, school-based notifications are the best way to share positive case information. It will continue notifying families by updating the district’s COVID-19 dashboard online.
The district said students who are symptomatic of the virus, or who have received a positive COVID test should continue avoiding school grounds and school-sponsored activities until:
- The student receives a negative diagnostic COVID-19 test and is asymptomatic; or
- Ten days have passed since the onset of symptoms or positive test result, the student has had no fever for 24 hours and the student’s other symptoms are improving; or
- The student receives written permission to return to school from a medical doctor licensed under chapter 458, an osteopathic physician licensed under chapter 459, or an advanced registered nurse practitioner licensed under chapter 464.
DCPS nots that if an employee or student is a close contact to a COVID-19 case, they do not need to quarantine if they are asymptomatic, regardless of vaccination status.