School families grapple with soaring COVID cases, suspended contact tracing

When the Florida Department of Health opted to suspend contact tracing in Duval County Public Schools Friday, it left families concerned about the rapid spread of COVID-19′s omicron variant confused — and wondering how to surveil a disease that can be transferred between asymptomatic patients.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When the Florida Department of Health opted to suspend contact tracing in Duval County Public Schools Friday, it left families concerned about the rapid spread of COVID-19′s omicron variant confused — and wondering how to surveil a disease that can be transferred between asymptomatic patients.

“My daughter would come in and say, ‘Oh, somebody’s got COVID. They’re out.’ and I’m, like, ‘OK, have you been near them?’ She’s, like, ‘Well, yeah, I had a class with them, but, you know, I was maybe two desks away,’” Shirley Simmons said, describing a conversation with one of her two daughters. “It’s tricky because [COVID-19 positive] kids could be in the hallways, a classroom eating at lunch, but they’re not sending all those kids home. So by the time you realize it, that they’ve, they’re now positive, you know, a couple more students are sick - but my daughter being near them is not being sent home.”

While some try to work around the DOH’s suspended contact tracing, others pointed out that the department’s efforts were not very efficient in the first place.

“For my household, I don’t really think contact tracing is necessary,” Duval County parent Laurel Martinez said. “At this point, we’ve been in this pandemic for so long, I mean, who has not been exposed?”

Omicron has set new daily case count records in most areas of Florida. The DCPS thresholds that triggered the automatic suspension of its mask mandate in late October have since been hit more than ten times over.

Screen captured image from Duval County Public Schools COVID-19 dashboard on Jan. 18, 2022. (Duval County Public Schools)

News4JAX contacted the Florida Department of Health for an explanation as to why it ended contact tracing but no response was immediately received.

On Jan 6., the department also updated its guidance for people who have been exposed to a known case of COVID-19 but do not have symptoms, saying that “testing is unlikely to have any clinical benefits.”

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends anyone who has been exposed be tested for COVID-19 and stay isolated until you receive results.


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