DeFUNIAK SPRINGS – Just over 400 students and staff in the Walton County School District were quarantined in the first week of school this year due to exposure to COVID-19 at the grounds of school or in the community, according to an early release of District School data regarding the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on county public schools.
The report, available through the ‘news’ tab on the school district’s website, online at https://www.walton.k12.fl.us/, lists 405 students and / or staff members. in quarantine Thursday of last week. According to the report, 256 of those quarantined were exposed to COVID-19 on school grounds, the remaining 149 people were exposed outside school facilities.
Previously: Class is in session: Walton County schools leave COVID-19 mask decisions to parents
The last:COVID cases on the rise in Walton County
Overall, between the start of classes on August 10 and Thursday, the school district reported 165 positive cases of COVID-19, according to what Superintendent Russell Hughes says likely will be “a monthly if not weekly report” on statistics on coronaviruses. The school district is offering the data in what Hughes calls “a spirit of transparency” regarding the effects of COVID-19 on schools.
In a phone interview on Monday afternoon, Hughes acknowledged that the COVID-19 numbers for the first week of school this year are “a lot more than what we (had) last year.”
When asked if he was surprised by the numbers so far this year, Hughes said “it confirmed how different this (new Delta variant) (of COVID-19) is.” According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Delta variant of the coronavirus “causes more infections and spreads faster than earlier forms of the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Parents are notified if the school district determines that their student or students have been exposed to COVID-19 as part of the district’s definition of exposure as “being within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes with a person whose the test is positive “.
Also according to the report, the district “works daily with local and state experts, and talks internally at the district office and with school principals on a daily basis” about COVID-19.
Other data in the initial COVID-19 report shows that 20 schools in the school district were involved in positive COVID-19 cases or exposed to positive COVID-19 cases in the first week of the school year . The report does not identify the facilities where these cases or exposures occurred.
Beyond the raw numbers, the data includes the percentage of students and / or staff affected by the coronavirus, statistics Hughes pointed to when describing the effects of the coronavirus on the school district.
For example, the report notes that the 256 people quarantined due to campus exposure to COVID-19 represent 2% of the 13,000 students and staff in the district. Additionally, the report notes that the 165 positive COVID-19 cases reported in the first week of the school year represent 1.3% of students and staff.
The school district has a number of what it calls “mitigation strategies” for COVID-19 in place. Among these protocols, students, teachers, staff and visitors should stay home if they feel sick; contact tracing to determine potential exposure to coronavirus; and prevent “non-essential visitors and volunteers” from entering schools. The policy on visitors and volunteers will be reassessed on September 1, according to the report.
Beyond that, the school district encourages social distancing “as much as possible” to help control any spread of COVID-19, and displays signs reminding students and others of social distancing, the use of disinfectant for children. hands, hand washing and the use of face coverings.
The “district mitigation strategies will be updated as new guidance becomes available throughout the school year,” the report notes, which reminds parents whose children are in quarantine or sick of “Document your child’s absences and request, complete and hand in remedial work. “
In terms of potential new strategies to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the school district, one example could be making changes to the way schools handle gatherings, Hughes said Monday.
In turn, said Hughes, such measures could help limit the spread of COVID-19 in the wider community, just as stricter measures in the community could help limit the presence of COVID-19 in the district. school.
Importantly, however, and in accordance with a July 30 executive order from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis making masks optional in public schools across the state – leaving it up to parents to decide whether their children will be masked at school – the School district report notes this face – the coverage as a COVID-19 mitigation strategy is “optional for everyone, including the bus.”
DeSantis, who was in Northwest Florida on Friday to announce the opening of monoclonal antibody treatment centers across the state to treat COVID-19 – a center now operating at the Northwest Florida Fairgrounds in Fort Walton Beach – vigorously defended his decree.
Responding to a question regarding President Joe Biden’s threat of federal legal action against governors who will not allow local school districts to adopt universal masking requirements, DeSantis said when the treatment center opened. by monoclonal antibodies that “for the federal government to come and override the rights of parents, as if they knew better … and force masks on kindergartens, first graders, second graders, that is. is a huge overshoot. “
In Walton County, for the seven-day period that ended Sunday, an average of 90 cases of COVID-19 were reported each day, according to data collected from various sources and made available by New York Times. This is a 32% increase from just two weeks ago, and up sharply from May and June, when the average number of new daily cases was in single digits. This started to change in mid-July, when the average number of new daily cases started to rise rapidly.