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‘We’re maintaining:’ Seminole health leaders confident as thousands of students return to school

4,500 students returning for face-to-face learning as second quarter begins

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Seminole County health leaders said they will continue to work closely with the school district to monitor COVID-19 cases as thousands of students return for face-to-face learning during the second quarter of the school year.

According to school officials, 4,546 students are returning to classrooms as the second nine weeks of the school year begins on Monday.

Donna Walsh, the health officer for the Seminole County Health Department, said they’re continuing to monitor schools even as more students return.

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“We’re maintaining,” Walsh said.

District officials said more than 38,000 students will now learn face-to-face, which is still under 50% capacity. As of Friday afternoon, the district’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 108 positive cases among students and teachers since school started on Aug. 17.

Walsh said most cases are community acquired and not from the schools themselves. She attributes that to students and staff wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.

“That’s why we’re seeing very little, if not any, transmission within a setting because they’ve adhered to those recommendations,” she said.

Walsh said as more students return to school, her office will continue to work closely with the district to track positive cases and conduct contract tracing to determine if students and staff need to quarantine or self-isolate.

“We’ll watch very closely and certainly any student, staff member or teacher who tests positive, they are a priority to make sure we do our case investigation and contract tracing immediately to keep it from spreading, so we’ll maintain that effort,” Walsh said.

Seminole County Medical Director Dr. Todd Husty said he’s surprised at how well the school year has gone so far. He adds he’s confident in the district’s reopening plan.

“The kids are really the secret sauce in this. They’re wearing their masks, they’re social distancing, they get it,” Husty said. “They’re being responsible.”

Husty said now that the state is two weeks into phase three of the governor’s reopening plans, he is pleased to see the community is still following the county’s mask mandate and social distancing. He said cases aren’t as low as he would like them to be but he’s happy everyone is doing their part.

“We’ve gotten the message out, people have heard it, they’ve embraced it. We’re all doing the right thing and guess what happens? It gets better if you do the right thing,” he said.

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