ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – In the past two months, 12 Orange County Public Schools employees, two of them bus drivers, have tested positive for COVID-19.
Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County made the announcement Monday, which was also the second day back to campus for the 69,000 students who opted for in-person learning this semester.
According to the county’s leading doctor, contact tracers still need to interview the bus drivers and then, a determination will be made as to whether students who were on the buses need to be notified.
“As far as we know so far, we don’t think that the students were at risk. Now, what we are trying to (figure out) is was the bus cleaned as it is in the protocols between trips and that’s an important distinction that we have to make. Even that, that’s to be sure there is another layer of protection for the students that came after the first load,” Pino said.
He said he believes that about 17 students were on one bus and “30 something” students were on the other. He added that the drivers wore masks at all times.
Officials didn’t provide information on what routes the drivers worked or what schools were they transported students to and from. Pino said they’ve identified all the students who were on the buses in case the school needs to send a notification to them.
Pino also said that in the past two weeks, 207 children between the ages of 5 and 18 have contracted the deadly respiratory illness. Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins said it’s important to note that those 207 are not all necessarily OCPS students.
“With regard to the students, we know that none have been in classrooms yet. And we have not needed to send home for quarantine any of the classrooms in Orange County Public Schools,” Pino said.
While the 207 number among students may seem high, Pino said he’s not alarmed.
“Two hundred and seven cases in the community are not that of concern as long as we have those measures in place to diminish as much as we can transmission,” Pino said.
As of Monday, 34,781 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Orange County since the virus was first detected locally in March, according to the Florida Department of Health. Of those cases, 2,292 have been in children.
Pino said that as schools reopen across the region, Orange County is experiencing some of its lowest COVID-19 numbers to date. He said emergency room visits and hospitalizations are declining as well as deaths.
“We received yesterday, 109 positive cases and we are pushing for that day when we only have double digits,” Pino said. “We received 2,432 negative cases and that give us a 4.29% (positivity rate) and that’s the best data we ever had.”
To keep those numbers low, Jenkins reminded parents to keep children home if anyone in the household is sick, make sure students are wearing masks, including at bus stops and while walking to school, and give children water bottles since on-campus fountains will remain closed.
As far as changes to the reopening plan now that a judge ruled that district leaders should have the right to choose whether they open campuses, Jenkins said it’s too soon to tell.
“So the board actually has a regular board meeting tomorrow, it’ll be their first opportunity to have any discussion around this ruling that has just come down,” Jenkins said. “Here’s the thing: I think they will be hard pressed to make an immediate decision because there may be a stay that comes down, and of course, there may be an appeal that comes down, so we want to be well advised before making an immediate reaction that might then be overturned.”