Orange County health leaders announce new COVID-19 quarantine protocols for students

Orange County Public Schools new school year starts on Tuesday, Aug. 10

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla – Students in Orange County return to class on Tuesday and there will be new protocols in place to deal with COVID-19 infections inside schools.

Dr. Raul Pino with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County announced the new procedures for dealing with infections during the county’s news conference on Monday.

“Now this is the initial guidance. We could receive further guidance to clarify some of the issues here, but this is in general so that the public has an understanding of what to expect,” Pino said.

He began by explaining that if a child tests positive for COVID-19, they may return to school at any point if they are do not show symptoms for 24 hours, without the assistance of medication, and receive a negative coronavirus test. A student can also return 10 days after their diagnosis, according to the doctor.

Pino added students can return to school at any point during the isolation period if they get a note from a licensed doctor that attests the student is able to return to school.

“Now, a student that has been exposed to a positive case — as long as they are asymptomatic (not showing symptoms) — they can have a test on the fourth day of their quarantine and come back to school the next day if that test is negative,” Pino said.

He added that a child can also come back to school seven days after exposure without the need for a test if they do not show any symptoms. However, if a student is exposed but has had COVID-19 within the last 90 days prior to that exposure, then they do not have to quarantine if they do not show any symptoms. This also applies to students who are fully vaccinated.

“We want the student to be in class we want parents to return to work, so I think the guidance provides for both,” Pino said

However, he conceded that the new protocols may be difficult for parents to understand.

“I know it can be a little bit confusing. It is confusing for us. We’ll get right. We will memorize it. We will post it online. We will share with the superintendent and the schools, and we will do it the right way. We have done this before. We can do it again,” he said.

Orange County Superintendent Barbara Jenkins also spoke to those quarantine issues Monday.

“I especially want to note — with all of those quarantine rules — do not ask your principal, do not ask teachers. We will allow D.O.H. (Department of Health) with their expertise to deal with those quarantine issues,” she said.

This comes after the superintendent announced on Friday that masks would be required for all students for the first 30 days of school unless a student brings in a note from their parent, excusing them from the masking rules.

“On Friday, we got additional information from the Department of Education, new rules adopted from the Department of Health — including those extensive quarantine guidelines that you heard Dr. Pino mentioned — and so late Friday afternoon, we made the provision that all of our students are required to wear a mask.”

She added, ”We still have mandatory masks for the adults on our campuses, and certainly all of our employees, there is no opt-out for those populations. That provision is in place for 30 days. After 30 days we will continue to consult with our medical experts — Dr. Pino, our MAC (medical advisory committee) chairman and others — we will consult and before the 30 days are up we will make a determination on how to proceed.”

Jenkins encouraged parents to few the school district back-to-school FAQ page, which can be found here.

“I want to be very clear — we don’t have enough space to have everyone six feet apart. At the end of last year, about 80% of our students were back in face-to-face instruction. We expect more than that for the start of this school year, but we will distance as much as possible. That is why face masks are encouraged because we cannot guarantee three to six feet,” she said.

You can read the full guidance from the Florida Department of Health on COVID-19 mitigation efforts in schools below:


About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.