Alachua County Health Department says its rapid response team is ready for school start

The Alachua County Department of Health is not sure of how many students will be in class on the Aug. 31st start date but it says its rapid response teams are ready.
Alachua County Administrator for the FDOH Paul Myers reassured the Alachua County Commission on Tuesday (Aug. 25th) that, “If we start school on Monday, we will have rapid response teams ready.
According to Myers, COVID-19 testing turnaround times are 24-48 hours and 100 percent of positive cases are investigated within 24 hours.
Myers and the BOCC discussed protocol for cases in Alachua County Public Schools. The K-5 classes will be handled differently from the older students, Myers said.
For K-5 the FDOH will confirm cases, isolate the positive student(s) for 10 days and every student and teacher in class will be tested with parent consent. According to Myers, K-5 students won’t transmit the virus as efficiently as middle and high school students will.
“Grades 6 through 12 are not cohorted,” Myers said and that means the FDOH will, “have to do significant contact tracing.
Students in middle or high school, “must have assigned seating on the bus and class room,” Myers said, in order to facilitate contact tracing.
Contact tracers will determine who has been exposed to the positive case. 
“There’s a lot of moving parts with this that no one has had to deal with before,” Myers said about entering uncharted waters with a pandemic.
But he did assure the BOCC that the rapid response team, “will be out there upon the signal of the day a positive case occurs.” And contact tracers will reach out to people in close contact within the last 24 hours. 
“We will test all the students, teachers, bus drivers who are close to the case,” he said.
Myers said he is having trouble filling all of the contact tracing positions and is looking at Plan B which means instead of hiring 16 contact tracers, he would up the salary and hire nurses to do contact tracing instead. 
“We can recruit, we can offer the money, but for the $20 an hour, there is hesitation working until December,” Myers said about the difficulty he is having filling the contact tracer positions. He has been utilizing public health employees while the positions remain open.
Myers said he will share metrics on test results turnaround time and contact tracing effort every two weeks with the BOCC. He also takes a look at testing capacity, daily case count, local hospitalizations, and emergency room visits.
Any positive cases that occur at school will be counted by the FDOH and recorded not by school but by the home address of the student, teacher or staff members.
But Alachua County Public Schools Public Information Officer Jackie Johnson said the district is looking to create a dashboard with information on cases at each school. “We expect to have it up and running when school starts,” she said. “Understanding that this will include people who did not get COVID at school.”
When it comes to quarantining a class or closing a school, Myers said that decision will be made only by the School Board, not the FDOH.
“If the school board decides to quarantine the class, that’s the SBAC’s call,” Myers said.

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