Florida Health in Flagler Clarifies Protocol for COVID in Schools
August 09, 2021
Based on an Emergency Rule issued by State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees on Friday, August 6, the Florida Department of Health in Flagler County has developed protocols to address confirmed cases of COVID-19 in public schools, close contacts with symptoms and close contacts without symptoms. These protocols were created because of a recent increase in COVID-19 infections, largely due to the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant, coincides with the imminent start of the school year, and will be implemented for students, staff and faculty at all public schools. For the sake of consistency, the health department will apply the same protocols for both public and private schools.
An important component of the Emergency Rule states that “Students may wear masks or facial coverings as a mitigation measure: however, the school must allow for a parent or legal guardian of the student to opt-out the student from wearing a face covering or mask.” The health department, following CDC recommendations, continues to encourage mask-wearing, particularly in indoor settings like schools.
Two highlights outlined in the emergency rule follow for public school students, staff and faculty:
- Students experiencing any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or who have received a positive diagnostic test for COVID-19 should not attend school, school-sponsored activities, or be on school property until:
- The student receives a negative diagnostic COVID-19 test and is asymptomatic: or
- Ten days have passed since the onset of symptoms, the student has had no fever for 24 hours and the student's other symptoms have resolved.
- Students who have been identified as a direct contact to an individual who received a positive diagnostic test for COVID-19 should not attend school, school-sponsored activities, or be on school property until:
- The student is asymptomatic and receives a negative diagnostic COVID-19 test after four days from the date of last exposure to the COVID-19 positive individual: or
- The student is asymptomatic, and seven days have passed since the date of last exposure to the COVID-19 positive individual.
In anticipation of higher demand as the school year begins, the health department offers two testing locations: 120 Airport Road, 2nd floor and 301 Dr. Carter Blvd. in Bunnell. Both locations are open weekdays from 4:30 to 6:30PM. People with COVID-19 symptoms should use the drive-through operation at 301 Dr. Carter Blvd and need to schedule an appointment by calling 386-437-7350 ext. 0.
Appointments are not necessary for vaccinations, which are offered at 301 Dr. Carter Blvd.
The new emergency rule requires all close contacts of positive cases to quarantine at least four days after exposure. However, DOH-Flagler is offering a “Test to Return” option for staff, students and faculty that brings them to either one of the department’s testing sites for a Rapid test on the fourth day of quarantine. If they test negative, they can return to school on the fifth day. The individual will then return to the health department on the sixth day for another rapid test. If they test negative again and do not have symptoms, they will be cleared to return to school on the seventh day with no additional testing. No appointments are necessary for this testing.
According to Health Administrator Bob Snyder, the “Test to Return” option was inspired by surveillance testing protocols used by the State of Utah, professional and college sports teams and universities throughout the country.
“We are committed to working with Flagler Schools to reduce the spread of COVID in our schools,” said Snyder. “Our staff is very busy right now -- testing and vaccinating residents, as well as competently handling case investigations and contact tracing seven days a week. We are up to the challenge and hope that students, staff and faculty who have been exposed and are asymptomatic will take us up on this opportunity to ‘test out’ of a seven-day quarantine.”
Like any vaccination effort offered in conjunction with the local health department, parents or guardians will need to provide consent for their student to participate in the “Test to Return” program and agree to bring their student to the health department on days 4 and 6 for testing.
Flagler Schools Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt says of this new program, “We applaud our local health department for seeking ways to safely and quickly return our students, teachers, and staff back to our campuses and sites. We know from last year how disruptive a lengthy quarantine can be. Flagler Schools hopes this will keep that disruption to a minimum.”
For more information about COVID-19 vaccination and testing efforts, please visit https://flhealthcovid19.gov/.
About the Florida Department of Health
The Florida Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.
For information about the local health department, go to flagler.floridahealth.gov, call 386-437-7350, or visit 301 Dr. Carter Blvd. in Bunnell. You can also listen to our weekly talk radio show “Flagler Health Matters,” Saturdays at 11:30AM, airing on WNZF News Radio 94.9FM or streaming at https://www.flaglerbroadcasting.com/wnzf.