Orange County officials say they are prepared to test students and staff when schools reopen for in-person learning at the end of the week.
With Central Florida’s largest school district welcoming students Friday, local health officials have a plan in place to test any students, teachers or workers exposed to COVID-19.
On Monday, the Florida Department of Health-Orange County will open a testing site specifically for school-related testing. The exact location of the testing site is undisclosed, said Dr. Alvina Chu, with the Florida Department of Health-Orange County.
“This would be for any reported cases from schools and they might need to quarantine or there might need to be some kind of screening ... we’ve been working with the Orange County Public Schools to determine how to get testing when needed,” said Chu, who is the epidemiology program manager for the Orange County DOH.
The Florida Department of Health has set aside about 10,000 COVID-19 testing kits specifically for schools in case there is an outbreak, according to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.
The local health department is also working to obtain rapid testing kits for the school district as well as the community at large, however, Demings said those tests are expensive, which is holding up the process.
Rapid testing kits cost around $41, per test, according to Demings.
The NBA, which has been holding the rest of its season at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World, has been using such rapid tests on players and staff. The Orange County DOH is negotiating with the same vendor who is supplying those tests to the NBA, Demings said.
The Food and Drug Administration recently approved a saliva-based COVID-19 test that the NBA helped study and fund. That testing method, called SalivaDirect, is less expensive around $10 a swab, reports The Verge.
Orange County leaders said they were cautiously optimistic as the county positivity rate of infections has been the lowest since June.
Orange County reported 197 new positive cases Thursday, bringing the total case number to 34,135 since March.
“While that (number) sounds bad on itself, and it very well may be, we do have to focus on the fact that there’s the lowest day-over-day percentage within the last eight weeks,” Demings said.
The average daily positivity rate of new cases compared to those tested over the past 14 days has been 6.7%. The rate of new positive cases reported Thursday was the lowest in two months.
The return of about 30% of students to Orange County Public School campuses is something health officials will be monitoring closely in the coming days.
“That will certainly be something that we’ll all be watching very carefully to make certain that our children returned to school in a safe manner,” Demings said.