NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – An off-campus party has contributed to the outbreak of more than two dozen COVID-19 cases at Fletcher High School, said Duval Public Schools Principal Dr.
As of Thursday night, the school district was reporting at least 32 cases of coronavirus to students and staff.
The rash of new cases forced the Neptune Beach school to close on Thursday.
“I want to be clear, the situation in Fletcher does not seem to be connected to the school, but to a social gathering that took place outside the school,” Greene said at a news conference. “As an administrator, I would be free if we did not reflect on this situation and show what happens when a community of students is on guard.”;
Greene said he did not know exactly when the party took place off campus but added that it was likely Friday or Saturday. He did not say how many students attended the festival.
“I was not satisfied with our position that we had to close our school because of activity outside of school,” Greene said. “I would be deliss if we did not reflect on this situation and show what happens when a community of students only watches one night.”
On Thursday, Fletcher High students began studying at home by at least Monday.
Greene said the school was closed because the outbreak could potentially affect 20% of students at the school – a threshold set by the district before the start of the school year.
The overall impact of new cases not yet fully known as contact tracing is still ongoing.
Pauline Rolle, director of the Florida Department of Health in Duval County, said all cases are related to outdoor activities, including one party, as well as smaller gatherings and deliveries within households.
Rolle also sought help from the community as the Department of Health continued its efforts to monitor contact.
“When my investigators call from for the Department of Health, please be cooperative,” Rolle said. “It is very important that you answer our questions and be true to us. That is the only way we can help protect the community.”
He requested that anyone familiar with the situation think that they may be in contact with someone with COVID-19 call the Department of Health at 904-253-1850.
“We got feedback from the community saying, ‘I don’t want to be a snitch,'” Rolle said. “Please, the virus is deadly. Don’t look at it that way, look at it as helping others. We need you to help us.”
Rolle added that he also heard some people say they were worried that the call from the Department of Health was a scam. He said anyone concerned that the call they received was a scam should hang up and call the Department of Health.
The Department of Health also reminded students who tested positive for quarantine at least 10 days after symptoms started and their siblings also had quarantine. In addition, the Department of Health asked those exposed to a positive case to quarantine for at least 14 days – even if their test was negative. And school and health leaders are urging families to stay away from society, avoid large crowds and wear masks.
“Some people from my class said they weren’t very well so I was, like, ‘Well, let’s go again,'” said Fletcher High junior Randy Prosswimmer.
Prosswimmer said he was not surprised when he found out his classmates were positive for COVID-19 and the school would return to virtual learning.
“I think I know at least three people who are sick. Probably more, but that’s all I know, ”Prosswimmer said.
Morgan Meigs said he knew it was difficult to control the spread of the virus.
“Anyone who has actually been to school knows those hallways are crowded,” said Meigs, who graduated from school last year. “And if you’re already in school, there aren’t many lanes.”
“I think it also opened too early,” Meigs added. “Not just schools but everyone.”
Rolle praised DCPS for the fast-paced action at Fletcher High.
“If they hadn’t been good partners, it might have been worse,” he said.
In addition to classes moving online, there are no sports activities or after-school activities at the school, including Friday night varsity football game.
“Help us all help you,” Greene said. “I have no other desire but to keep schools open and as normal as possible in the teaching and activities that take place in our high schools and in our middle schools and elementary schools. But if you choose to take risks outside at school, or even at school, it will have an impact. For your safety, for the safety of your fellow students and for the safety of your teachers and staff, behavioral health and healthy behavior. “
Greene said that once the Department of Health has completed monitoring of its contact, the district will determine whether the school should remain closed for a longer period of time. Greene said the district expects to know that information before Monday.
The plan is to extend the shutdown if there is a 20% exposure to all on campus – or one in five. At Fletcher High, that means approximately 320 students and staff were found exposed to COVID-19.
One block away, San Pablo Elementary has 23 reported cases between September 6 and October 10, and Fletcher Middle School has one reported case, according to the state Department of Health. Both remain open.
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