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Clay County mom starts contact tracing Facebook group due to health department, district not telling them fast enough about exposures

Mom Laurie Fowler created the Clay County COVID Exposures Facebook group one week ago. It already has more than 4,000 members.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. — As of Friday evening, there were more than 150 students and 40 staff members who had tested positive for COVID-19 in Clay County. Students just finished their third week of classes.

This is 25 times the amount of positive COVID cases among students this time last school year. Another 406 students are currently in quarantine. 

Some parents said the health department and the school district aren't telling families soon enough if their child was exposed. In some cases, parents say, they aren't notifying them at all. 

Laurie Fowler decided to take things into her own hands and created the Clay County COVID Exposures Facebook group one week ago. It already has more than 4,000 members.

“I think it's really important that we work together as a community and just try to do the right thing by our children and our neighbors," Fowler said.

"All these parents want to work together, so let's get together," she said.

Fowler's 11-year-old has asthma, and she said it's scary knowing he could be exposed to COVID in his classroom.

Parents said they're hearing about COVID exposures on social media and through the grapevine. 

“I don't blame the Department of Health or the school. I feel that their hands have been tied. They're limited with their resources. So, you know, hopefully, they'll be able to reach out quicker at some point, but, you know, a week time could be a lot of time passing when you're not quite sure, but you hear, somebody's sick," Fowler said.

According to the district’s website, the Department of Health is in charge of contact tracing and notifying families and staff if they’ve been in close contact with a positive case. The Department of Health can also monitor student attendance and seating charts, and interview students who are positive to decide which students and staff had prolonged exposure to the case, the district’s website said.

“The underlying thing for me is the safety and the well-being. If all of our staff members get sick, and transportation gets sick, what are we doing? We're just kind of mixing everything up at this point, and it just doesn't feel like there's hope at the moment to get out of it, but I do believe we will, eventually," Fowler said.

First Coast News reached out to both the district and the Department of Health in Clay County. The Department of Health said it was working on FCN's request.

The district responded with the following statement:

The Florida Department of Education released a COVID-19 Symptomatic Decision Tree, which outlines the protocols for students who are exposed to COVID-19 or are positive. As stated in the District's Smart Restart Phase II Plan, the Florida Department of Health - Clay County conducts all contact tracing and will advise parents and guardians by phone call and letter if their student had prolonged contact with a positive case. The District has followed and will continue to follow the recommendations from the Florida Department of Health - Clay County regarding any potential classroom, athletic and school closures. 

The District publishes a weekly report for positive case and quarantine numbers district-wide. This report was established in September of 2020, so there are no reports available for the first two weeks of school from last year. These are self-reported numbers and they are not validated by the Department of Health - Clay County. 

Approximately, 54.2 percent of the population 12 and older in Clay County have at least one dose of the vaccine and 42.4 percent of that population are fully vaccinated.

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