NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – An off-campus party contributed to an outbreak of more than two dozen COVID-19 cases at Fletcher High School, said Duval County Public School Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene, on Thursday afternoon.
By Thursday evening, the school district had reported at least 32 coronavirus cases among students and staff.
The rash of new cases forced the Neptune Beach School to close on Thursday.
“I want to make it clear that the situation at Fletcher does not seem to be related to school, but rather to a social meeting outside of school,”
Greene said she didn’t know exactly when the off-campus party would be, but added that it would likely be Friday or Saturday. She did not say how many students attended the party.
“I’m not happy that we are able to close our school for out-of-school activities,” Greene said. “I wouldn’t be sure if we didn’t think about this situation and show what happens when a student community only drops their watch for an evening.”
On Thursday, Fletcher High students began studying at home through at least Monday.
Greene said the school had closed because the outbreak could hit 20% of students at the school – a threshold set by the district before the start of the school year.
The overall impact of the new cases was not fully known as the contact follow-up is ongoing.
Dr. Pauline Rolle, director of the Florida Department of Health in Duval County, said all cases are related to outside activity, including a party, as well as smaller gatherings and intra-household broadcasts.
Rolle also sought help from the community as the Ministry of Health continues its contact tracing efforts.
“When my investigators from the Ministry of Health call, please be cooperative,” said Rolle. “It is extremely important that you answer our questions and be honest with us. This is the only way we can help protect the community. “
She asked anyone who is familiar with the situation and believes they may be in contact with someone who has COVID-19 to call the Department of Health at 904-253-1850.
“We got feedback from the community saying,” I don’t want to be a snitch, “said Rolle.” Please, this virus is deadly. Don’t see it that way, see it as an aid to others. We. “You have to help us.”
Rolle added that she had also heard some people say they were concerned that the health ministry call was a scam. She said anyone who is concerned that the call they are getting is a scam should hang up and call the Department of Health.
The Ministry of Health also reminded students who tested positive for quarantine for at least 10 days after symptoms began and whose siblings were also quarantined. In addition, the Ministry of Health has asked those exposed to a positive case to quarantine for at least 14 days – even if they tested negative. And school and health leaders asked families to continue to distance themselves socially, avoid large crowds, and wear a mask.
“Some people in my class said they weren’t feeling well, so I said, ‘Well, this is back,” said Randy Prosswimmer, junior at Fletcher High.
Prosswimmer said he wasn’t surprised to find out that his schoolmates tested positive for COVID-19 and that the school would be learning virtually again.
“I think I know at least three people who are sick. Probably more, but that’s all I know, ”said Prosswimmer.
Morgan Meigs said he knew it would be difficult to prevent the virus from spreading.
“Anyone who has actually been to school knows these hallways are narrow,” said Meigs, who graduated from school last year. “And when you’re in this school, there aren’t many sidewalks.”
“I think it just reopened way too early,” added Meigs. “Not just the schools, but with everything.”
Rolle praised DCPS for its quick action at Fletcher High.
“If they weren’t good partners, it could be a lot worse,” she said.
In addition to online classes, there are no athletics or extracurricular activities in the school, including the college soccer game on Friday nights.
“Help us all help you,” Greene said. “All I want is to keep the schools open and to be as normal as possible with the classes and activities that take place in our high schools, as well as our middle and elementary schools. However, if you choose to take risks outside of school or even in school, it has an impact. For your safety, the safety of your classmates, and the safety of your teachers and staff, train health behaviors and healthy habits. “
Greene said once the Department of Health finishes its contact tracing, the district will decide whether the school should be closed for an extended period. Greene said the district hopes to have this information before Monday.
There are plans to extend the shutdown if everyone on campus is 20% affected – or one in five. At Fletcher High, that would mean around 320 students and staff were exposed to COVID-19.
One block away, San Pablo Elementary had 23 reported cases between September 6 and October 10, and Fletcher Middle School had one reported case, according to the Department of Health. Both remain open.
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