SOURCES: Health Department “Dragging Its Feet” On Contact Tracing, Case Confirmation For Students, Teachers, Employees
BY: ANDREW COLTON | Editor and Publisher
BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — Slow contact tracing by the Palm Beach County division of the Florida Department of Health is dramatically hampering the Palm Beach County School District’s efforts to share COVID-19 infection data on a daily basis.
Multiple sources confirmed to BocaNewsNow.com that delays in reporting data, inaccurate data on the district’s COVID-19 website, and principals saying one thing while the school district is saying something else is a function of the Florida Department of Health dragging its feet on contact tracing and case confirmation.
Health Department spokesman Alexander Shaw did not respond to a request for comment from BocaNewsNow.com on Tuesday.
Under the current system, parents or staff members are required to report a positive COVID-19 test to a principal or other administrative personnel. That report is to be transmitted immediately to the school district’s medical office which reports it to the Florida Department of Health’s office in Palm Beach County. The local health department office is supposed to confirm the positive test and then initiate contact tracing — all while principals are to alert the school community of a positive test. But it’s not happening.
“Our goal is transparency,” said Palm Beach County School spokesperson Claudia Shea when asked about issues with COVID-19 reporting. “We are still working on the notification process. The goal is for the (COVID-19) dashboard to be updated and students, parents and staff (to be) notified as quickly as possible.”
But school district officials, teachers and principals say nothing is happening quickly. Over the span of 24 hours in South Palm Beach County on Monday, Boca Raton Middle School’s principal reported a student infection that was not on the district’s dashboard, while simultaneously, the principal of Whispering Pines Elementary School did not issue a school-wide notification about a staff member whose positive test did appear on the dashboard. That notification had still not been made as of Tuesday night.
“No one has any idea what they’re doing,” said a frustrated mid-level administrator. “We want everyone to know when there’s a positive test, but we’re getting no guidance from (Superintendent) Fennoy’s office and we don’t know what we’re allowed to say and what we’re not allowed to say.”
All sources speaking with BocaNewsNow.com confirmed that principals are not to blame.
“It’s the health department,” said a source who was not authorized to discuss the matter. “The Florida Department of Health wants to control the data. They don’t want (the school district) to have a dashboard. The slowdown isn’t the school district. The slowdown is the department of health.”
It was not immediately clear why case confirmation and contact tracing is taking what one school district employee familiar with the matter said is “days or a week” — instead of hours — which is what parents expected as schools reopened for in-person education. Parents are now being told they must decide whether their children will engage in “in-person” or “distance learning” for the rest of the calendar 2020 year, but several contacting BocaNewsNow.com say there is no way to make an educated choice if they don’t know how many students and teachers are truly positive for COVID-19.
Link to the Palm Beach County School District COVID-19 dashboard.
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