Duval Department of Health ends contact tracing of COVID-19 cases in schools

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Duval Department of Health has informed Duval County Public Schools that it will no longer be conducting contact tracing of positive COVID-19 cases in schools.

As a result, DCPS will continue to notify families of positive COVID-19 cases in a student’s classroom via a letter. DCPS will also provide families with a “decision tree” to help them decide what steps to take when a student is showing COVID-19 symptoms.

Positive COVID-19 cases will also appear on the district’s COVID-19 dashboard.

DCPS recommends students who shows signs of COVID-19 or test positive to not attend school or school-sponsored activities until that student tests negative or ten days have passed since they had symptoms.

They may also return if they have permission from a medical doctor.

Action News Jax received the following statement from the Florida Department of Health in Duval County:

“The recent change in state law places the choice to quarantine as a close contact in the hands of parents; therefore, reporting close contacts is no longer required in a school setting. However, when three or more cases are reported, in a closed setting such as a classroom or sports team, the Florida Department of Health will determine whether or not an outbreak has occurred for epidemiological tracking and surveillance purposes. Surveillance activities may include interviewing school staff and reviewing attendance or schedules to see if cases are linked. If an outbreak is determined, the information surrounding the outbreak will be entered into the Department’s epidemiological database (but for tracking and reporting purposes only). Schools are not provided with any further documentation, and parents will not receive calls about exposure information nor will they receive quarantine letters (other than the exposure letter provided by the school).”

Read the full letter below:

Dear Families,

The Department of Health—Duval informed us this week that they will no longer conduct contact tracing of positive COVID-19 cases in schools.

Contact tracing is the process of identifying others who were in close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 and providing quarantine or other health guidance to those people.

The Florida Department of Health, under its responsibilities as detailed in state law, has been contact tracing in Duval schools since returning to school-based learning in 2020.

New procedures as a result of Department of Health decision

In response to the Department of Health’s decision, Duval County Public Schools will again notify families of elementary school students when a positive case has been present in their child’s classroom during that week.

The letters will go to families at the conclusion of the school day when the first case for the classroom is reported. The school will send only one letter per class per week notifying parents of possible exposure that week if a case is reported. A second reported case in that class during the same week as the first will not generate a second letter.

Unlike the Department of Health, the district has no authority to direct quarantine or isolation of potentially exposed people.

In notifying elementary families of a case, the district will also include a decision tree to assist families in making decisions about steps to take based on whether children are showing COVID-19 symptoms.

The practice of notifying parents on a classroom basis is only for elementary schools because elementary students tend to experience school with more limited exposure to other children and teachers.

Because secondary students change classes and experience each school day with an expansive number of peers, school-based notifications remain the most meaningful basis for sharing positive case information. For all schools, the district will continue its practice of notifying families when positive cases impact the school and placing the reported case on the district’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Return to School Information for Students Positive for COVID-19 or with Symptoms of COVID-19

The district will continue to follow the state’s emergency rule 64DER21-15. Students experiencing any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or who have received a positive test for COVID-19 shall not attend school, school-sponsored activities, or be on school property 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.

Information for Close Contacts to a COVID-19 Positive Case

For staff and student close contacts, we are complying with the Senate Bill SB 2021 2-B: COVID-19 Mandates. The school board or district may not prohibit a student or employee from attending school or school-sponsored activities, prohibit them from being on school property, or subject them to restrictions or disparate treatment, based on an exposure to COVID-19, so long as they remain asymptomatic and have not received a positive test for COVID-19.

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.

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