JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – New coronavirus safety precautions will be in place when Duval County Public School students return to school Tuesday following the winter break.
The school district sent a note to parents and students on Sunday letting them know the steps it is taking to prepare and protect students during a time when a record number of coronavirus infections have been reported in the state fueled by the omicron variant.
Among the changes, employees will be required to wear face masks when working with students or when unable to social distance and all field trips have been postponed. The new rules will be in place until the end of January.
In response to this surge, the following measures will be implemented during January:
Visitors will be required to wear face masks at schools and district offices.
Capacity at athletic and performing arts events will be reduced to 75%. All individuals should practice social distancing when possible.
Employee meetings will be conducted via virtual platforms when possible.
Common gathering areas should be closed, or capacity reduced.
Out of district travel is temporarily suspended.
District office hours will be limited for visitors. Visitors should be encouraged to call offices in advance and report to designated areas only.
The district said it will evaluate conditions at the end of January to determine if any of the measures need to be extended.
The district also asked parents to keep students home from school if they are sick, strongly recommended face masks for students and urged students 5-years-old and older to get vaccinated.
The district urged all parents to report positive tests to schools and to be ready in case their child begins to exhibit COVID-19 symptoms in school.
DCPS said all schools have been cleaned and sanitized over the holiday break.
“Additionally, all schools continue to be treated with an antimicrobial surface protectant every 60 days, and we will have plenty of hand sanitizer, soap, and disinfectant wipes available,” according to the email.
Data from the Florida Department of Health says 15% of children 5 to 11-years-old are vaccinated across the state.
In the age group, 12 to 19, 58% are vaccinated.
Weekly case counts for both age groups rose by the thousands by the second week of December.
Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Mohammed Reza says he wants to see more school-aged children get the vaccines.
“We know these vaccines work, they prevent severe disease and hospitalization. So we know they work and they’re safe. And so to prevent, to have that tool available to us, and to help prevent any sort of disease in our children, the long-term effects from this virus are just so important,” said Dr. Mohammed Reza, Infectious Disease expert.