21 Orange County students, 15 employees test positive for COVID-19

18 campuses affected, 117 asked to quarantine

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Public Schools has documented COVID-19 cases in at least 21 students and 15 employees.

OCPS released the initial list Wednesday evening of affected campuses, which included only 21 confirmed cases.

“Preliminary data indicates that as of Friday, Aug. 21 Orange County Public Schools has had 21 lab confirmed cases. Out of the 21 confirmed cases, only 13 students had been on campus at 11 schools,” a spokesperson wrote in an email. “According to (the Department of Health), there are no school-based transmissions at this point. Rather, they are community-based incidents.”

During a news conference on Thursday, Orange County officials said additional cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed, for a total of 21 students who tested positive for the novel coronavirus and 15 employees.

The list released on Wednesday showed the initial 13 students impacted by the virus had been on campus at following 11 schools:

  • John Young Elementary
  • College Park Middle
  • Sunset Park Elementary
  • East River High School
  • Lakeview Middle School
  • Piedmont Lakes Middle School
  • Rock Springs Elementary School
  • Spring Lake Elementary School
  • Ocoee Middle School
  • Northlake Park Elementary School
  • University High School

The initial eight school-based employees worked at the following eight schools:

  • Southwest Middle School
  • Keene’s Crossing Elementary School
  • Bonneville Elementary School
  • Lake Como K-8 School
  • Lakeville Elementary School
  • Clay Springs Elementary School
  • Pineloch Elementary School
  • Spring Lake Elementary School

OCPS officials said as of Thursday afternoon, 117 people had been asked to quarantine as a precaution.

“If they are in quarantine, just know that the education of their student is still a priority for us,” said Scott Howat, spokesman for OCPS. “They will isolate the classroom, clean it, leave it for 24 hours, and then the students that are in that classroom would move and the teacher would move to another classroom.”

During Thursday’s news conference, Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health pointed out the distinction between isolation and quarantine.

According to Pino, someone enters isolation because they have tested positive for the virus. Quarantine is for those who may have had contact with a case but have not tested positive.

“So isolation are individuals that are confirmed to be positive and confirmed to be positive means that we have found a record of a positive test in our system that has been reported to the state or we have a paper copy of a positive result. So the person is placed in isolation to prevent anyone else from getting infected. That’s isolation,” Pino said. “Then you have quarantine. Quarantine is an individual that you have not diagnosed had symptoms. But you think ... you believe that they were exposed and then you quarantine those individual for a period of time.”

Pino said so far, county health officials have not had any reports of secondary transmissions within schools, which means most of the confirmed cases were likely acquired in the community, according to Pino.

“Secondary transmission is when someone that already has the disease passes to another person, in this case, in the school system. Now we are investigating in some cases to be sure that this has not happened, but we don’t have evidence that this has happened yet in our school system,” Pino said.

He added that the county is working to get 1,000 rapid tests, hopefully by next week, that will be used to test students in certain instances.

On Monday, Pino said 12 OCPS employees had tested positive for the deadly respiratory illness in the past two months, including two bus drivers who were in contact with students.

He also said 207 children between the ages of 5 and 18 have tested positive in the past two weeks, although OCPS Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins clarified that those children are not all necessarily public school students.

About 69,000 Orange County students decided to return to campus for the semester rather than continue online learning. Their first day back in the physical classroom was Friday.

Also on Wednesday, the Florida Education Association -- the state’s largest teachers union, which is currently involved in a lawsuit over reopening schools -- launched its own dashboard to track COVID-19 cases associated with schools.

Citing data from the Florida Department of Health, that dashboard lists 8,995 cases in people 18 and under since Aug. 10, when schools across the state first started letting students return.

Last week, in response to a separate FEA lawsuit, OCPS released a list showing all the worksites that had COVID-19 cases throughout the summer. Between June 1 and Aug. 19, 192 employees tested positive.

In neighboring Seminole County, at least 179 people have been asked to quarantine due to possible coronavirus exposure since the semester began on Aug. 17.

To keep up with the latest news on the pandemic, subscribe to News 6′s coronavirus newsletter and go to ClickOrlando.com/coronavirus.

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