Rise in student COVID-19 cases will translate to more cases in older population

Alachua County Health Department Administrator Paul Myers echoed his findings from two weeks ago… that the fastest rise in COVID-19 cases continues to be in the student population ages 18 to 24.
 
During the Oct. 13th Board of County Commissioners meeting, Myers gave his report about Alachua County, which he said continues to show better numbers than Florida’s overall totals.

Paul Myers

 
The COVID-19 year-to-date positivity rate for Florida is 13.2 percent compared to Alachua County’s 8.63 percent.
 
Myers showed on a chart representing Alachua County’s 14-day positivity average, that it spiked on Sept. 18th to just under 12 percent, then declined steadily through Oct. 8th reaching just over 4 percent and is now trending upward with a 4.58 percent positivity rate between Sept. 28th – Oct. 11th.
 
In a 30-Day Hospital Trend chart, the number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators and in the ICU decreased between Oct. 2 and Oct. 5th but started to increase by Oct. 7th.
 
As of Oct. 14th the Alachua County COVID-19 dashboard reports an average hospital occupancy rate of 87.72 percent.
 
Of the 3,099 serologic tests completed in Alachua County, Myers reported that 224 people tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies yielding a 7.23 percent positivity rate for antibodies.
 
Myers relayed his department’s role in COVID-19 school monitoring as facilitating collaboration with local experts to address impact of the virus in schools, educating decision makers on appropriate mitigation strategies and prioritizing isolation, testing, and contact tracing for all students, teachers, and staff.
 
Testing for staff and students at schools has been indexed as those presenting COVID-19 symptoms or reported and verified close contact to a positive case.
Myers said he was impressed with the accuracy of the school nurses who are referring students for COVID-19 testing. Of the 228 individuals tested that were referred by school nurses, 66 were positive yielding a 28.9 percent positivity rate.
 
“I commend the superintendent and team for doing an outstanding job with the amount of kids presenting to our school clinics,” he said. “That’s a heck of a batting average when they are picking out one in four (students that end up testing positive).” 
 
Myers said the percentage of students attending in person classes has risen from 30 percent to 50 percent.
 
The testing criteria for testing students in school based on contact with a positive case is to test the entire class if it’s K-5. And in middle, high schools and household contacts, testing is offered on Days 3 and 9 following confirmed exposure for greater than 15 minutes and within 6 feet.
Of the COVID-19 school monitoring of 940 individuals, 250 cases originated from schools while 34 index cases originated from household exposure and 656 are people in contact with index cases.
 
Myers’ goal continues to be “Mitigating the risk to students and staff while trying to get kids back to school.”
 
So far, the most positive cases reported by a single school is Newberry High with 26 as of Oct. 13th, Myers reported.
 
“Newberry’s outbreak on the football team is most likely from after practice hanging out,” he said.
 
The school district received 600 rapid testing kits that Myers said can be administered to presenting cases.
 
Myers said it’s the 18 and up driving the cases in Alachua County and that will affect hospitalization rates. Transmission of the virus continues to happen most in households between family members or roommates, he said.
“There is a 28-day lag between positivity going up in that age group before it spills into the other age groups.”
 
Myers said his next concern is the onset of the influenza season. “There is sparse data on co-infection with influenza and COVID-19,” he said.
He urged that everyone get a flu vaccination, especially students and noted that in the early phases of the flu vaccination program for students, “We’re not having a high amount of participation. Even in brick and mortar.
His continued message to Alachua County residents is ,”Wear that mask when you cannot socially distance, especially indoors, stay home when you don’t feel well and don’t go to work, bars, or school if you are not feeling well.”
 
To monitor Alachua County COVID-19 cases and data click here.

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