More than 800 Collier County students have quarantined this year
Close contact with positive coronavirus cases in school settings has led to 820 Collier County students quarantining this school year, the school district confirmed this week.
The school system has yet to send an entire classroom home to quarantine this school year, Stephanie Vick, administrator of the Florida Department of Health Collier said at a Tuesday school board meeting.
Of those who were determined to be close contacts and sent home to quarantine, eight students, or about 0.98%, tested positive for the virus, according to the district.
"This positive result may be attributed to secondary transmission or exposure in the community," Chad Oliver, Collier's district spokesman, wrote in an email.
The information was provided by the Department of Health in Collier as of Nov. 3, Oliver wrote.
The confirmation from the district came after school board members discussed a higher number at Tuesday's meeting.
"Confirmed positive results from close contacts may not be indicative of the true transmission percentage because it is unknown how many of the 820 students were tested nor the frequency of the tests students may have undertaken," Oliver wrote.
The school district declined to release the number of employees who have quarantined this year.
Throughout the first quarter, Collier schools did not share how many students and employees have quarantined due to close proximity with positive cases.
"CCPS does not routinely maintain or report this type of quarantine data," Oliver wrote.
During a health presentation at Collier's school board meeting, local medical officials weighed in on the county and school district cases plus continuing safety efforts.
"We are not seeing outbreaks related to schools," Dr. David Lindner, medical director of NCH's coronavirus team, said at the meeting.
Lindner credited Collier's mask mandate in the district and other mitigation strategies, like hand washing and social distancing.
"I remember listening to numerous individuals saying how basically we were going to see this huge spike in COVID as soon as schools opened. We haven't. And that's because what you're doing is working," Lindner said. "I want to applaud you."
Efforts need to continue, Lindner said.
The positivity rate in Collier County is trending upward with more new cases, a combination to watch closely, Vick said.
The Florida Department of Health reported 106 new cases of COVID-19 in Collier County Friday.
More than 220 positive coronavirus cases have been reported in Collier schools since Aug. 31, the first day of school, according to the school district's dashboard.
Six employees at Lake Trafford Elementary were reported positive in the dashboard on Nov. 10.
In September, Collier launched the dashboard that tracks COVID-19 cases by school, date and whether the positive case is a student or employee.
The school district will continue reporting cases on the dashboard this quarter, according to the district.
The Department of Health in Collier shares guidelines and updated guidance with Collier schools while contact tracing in the district.
Close contacts are "someone who is within six feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period," according to Terri Harder, program manager for epidemiology at the Department of Health in Collier.
At the Tuesday meeting, School Board Chairwoman Stephanie Lucarelli asked whether students who had previously contracted the virus or tested positive for antigens would be sent home to quarantine upon exposure.
If a student who has tested positive in the previous three months is also identified as a close contact, they would not be excluded from class, Harder said.
"It's a three-month period, that's the best we have right now," Harder said. "And things can probably change."
Masks aren't going away
Face coverings, specifically in schools, aren't going away anytime soon, Vick said.
Masks will be worn "at least through this school year into the summer," Vick said.
Children will most likely be immunized last once the vaccine is made available, Vick said.
"The jury is still out as to what what will happen next year. It will all depend on how many people are vaccinated. It will depend on what the incident rate is in the community," Vick said. "And it's a moving target."
Since school's start, students and staff have been required to wear a face covering throughout school hours with limited times to remove them. Students can remove them for lunch, recess and outdoor physical education classes.
The school district's mask mandate continued into the second quarter, which started on Nov. 2.
Vick and other officials discussed masks' role in preventing the transmission of the virus.
"That's one of the few tools that we have," Vick said.
Masks are the most important mitigation strategy to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, said Lindner, with NCH. And people need to continue to take action to protect themselves, he said.
“This is real," Lindner said. "This is not going away until the pandemic can be controlled."
Rachel Fradette is an education reporter for the Naples Daily News. Follow her on Twitter: @Rachel_Fradette, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please consider subscribing to support journalism in your own backyard.