MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade schools are revising their COVID-19 protocols as the number of cases increases in the county.
On Thursday, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced that beginning Monday, Jan. 6, all adults entering schools, bus drivers, and bus attendants will have to wear masks.READ MORE: Deadly Crash Shuts Down Deerfield Beach Streets; BSO Cruiser Towed From Scene
“The workforce at all levels, parents, visitors, business entities, and contractors will be required to wear masks,” he said.
While masks will not be required for students, they are strongly urged to wear them.
“While facial coverings are not required or permitted in the state of Florida as a result of both recent legislation as well as court action, we are strongly encouraging students, all students at all grade levels to wear masks at all times. With the exception of the times (when) they would be outdoors appropriately distance from their colleagues. Or of course during the times that they would be in the cafeteria or in their classrooms, eating their breakfast or lunch,” said Carvalho.
Masks will also be required for all spectators at school sporting events.
Carvalho said the reason for the revision of the policy was clear.
“We are continuing to experience a significant health crisis,” he said. “It is very observable to all of us that positivity rates in our community continue to escalate. In fact, positivity rates in Miami-Dade today are at 25%. The number of cases per 100,000 individuals in our community has skyrocketed from about 62, just a month ago, to about 1,800 as of December 29th. That is unprecedented during any time that we have dealt with this coronavirus crisis going back over a year and a half ago.”
The superintendent said this increase in cases is mainly driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant. He pointed out that people who have contracted the Omicron variant are not exhibiting the severity of symptoms many had during the Delta variant crisis, particularly those who have been vaccinated.
“Therefore the impact is not as severe. But there is a significant increase in the hospitalization of children into pediatric units,” said Carvalho.
WATCH: Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s Update On COVID-19 Protocols
The superintendent also addressed students and staff who may have to quarantine.READ MORE: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Who Grew Up In Miami, Could Be Next US Supreme Court Justice
As a result of recently released CDC guidelines for quarantining, we will be following those guidelines which will require no more than five days of quarantining for individuals, after they have contact with the virus, even if they had symptoms, but as long as 24 hours prior to them returning to the worksite, if they have no fever, without fever, suppressing medication, they will be allowed to return, so that means as a five day window, he said.
That means for anyone who had symptoms as late as December 29, as long as they have improved, they have no fever without fever suppressing medication, can return on January 3.
The superintendent said he’s not in favor of the state law when it comes to students or school staff quarantining.
“Recent legislation in the state of Florida prohibits us, as a school district as well as all other school districts in the state of Florida from mandating a quarantining of a student as long as they do not have symptoms on a basis of simple contact. Obviously, we’re not in agreement with that disposition. It is a matter of law, one that we shall be reviewing with our legal team in consultation with the board,” he said.
Prior to sending their children to school, parents/guardians are asked to complete the At-HomeDaily Student Health Screening.
Carvalho said parents of students who must quarantine should call their child’s school and speak with the principal, assistant principal, or teacher.
“That child will be able to click on an access (and) virtually access the classroom where their teacher and peers will be learning via installed cameras in every teacher’s classroom,” he said.
More information about remote learning options during quarantine can be found at ICP.dadeschools.net.
The superintendent said they are legally prohibited from switching to online learning. He added that when they did online learning, the most at-risk students fell behind.
Carvalho said they are anticipating a shortage of bus drivers as the Omicron variants surges. They will be in contact with parents about any potential changes in schedule.
He also said they have sent a letter to Governor Rod DeSantis and the state’s Commissioner of Education asking them what the proposals they are going to put forth to deal with this latest COVID surge and its impact on the school system.
United Teachers of Dade issued the following statement.MORE NEWS: Miami Twin Brothers Will Set Sail For Harvard In The Fall
“It’s embarrassing how Governor DeSantis has made the district vulnerable and susceptible to the rapid spread of this disease among children. The School Board and the Superintendent have their hands tied because of the negligent law passed during the special session last month. Now is the time for the Governor to act responsibly, lead this community, and provide a safe learning environment for our children. Parents and teachers alike understand that masks reduce children’s risk of significant disease and this is the best way to ensure their safety and well-being. Let’s be better citizens by following safety guidelines and getting vaccinated.”
Karla Hernandez-Mats, UTD President