Slow contact tracing impacting Orange County schools, parents

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The ongoing spike in cases is affecting the state’s ability to keep up with the necessary contact tracing, and the lag is being felt across Orange County schools.

Parents said they’re getting quarantine notifications days after classroom infections.

About 45 minutes after dropping off his fifth grader at Palm Lake Elementary, Mitch Emerson headed right back to pick her up when her teacher emailed that his child’s class had been exposed to COVID-19.

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“It appears that there was a miscommunication of some kind,” Emerson said. “We were supposed to get an email from the school the night before, but the teacher realized that did not happen.”

An hour after that, he received a notification from the state.

Adding to the frustration, parents said they learned the infection began with one child, but contact tracing didn’t catch up to let them know until after multiple children tested positive.

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“If we would have found out from the first one, we would have pulled them out,” Emerson said.

Now, a backup plan is underway at the Department of Health, which is responsible for contact tracing in schools.

Parents who don’t answer the phone slow the system, but Orange County Medical Director Dr. Raul Pino said the governor’s emergency order also factors that in, allowing a return to school after four days.

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“Four days is a very short time for this high number of cases for us to be able to do that,” Pino said.

To keep schools better informed, Pino said the Department of Health is looking at different strategies such as sliding the shifts of contact tracers to try and reach more parents more quickly.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.