‘New normal’: Duval County school superintendent stares down another pandemic school year

School Superintendent Diana Greene
'Back to school' this year comes with health risks.

Universal access to vaccines for adults couldn’t slow down COVID-19, and the delta variant is hitting Northeast Florida especially hard.

On Tuesday, a week before Jacksonville-area students attending Duval County Public Schools begin the new school year, Superintendent Diana Greene addressed the media.

Jacksonville is an epicenter of the current coronavirus variants, and the prospect of unmasked children has roiled and concerned many parents.

“It was my sincere hope that this news conference would be about getting back to normal,” Greene said. “instead, this news conference is more about the new normal than the old normal.”

A new normal is in reach if “everyone eligible” is vaccinated, she added

“Please get the shots,” Greene said.

Greene also urged face coverings for students as a “simple act of kindness.” Staff will be required to mask up through Sept. 3, she noted.

“Within the latitude we have, we will work to make our school environments as safe as possible to keep our students in school as long as possible,” Greene said.

Cleaning and sanitizing, more nurses, and free telehealth services are among the other modalities the district will use to crush a virus that thus far has proved resilient. Meanwhile, the district is flushing and readying its HVAC systems.

Current statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (covering July 26 to Aug. 1) paint a grim picture for Duval County.

The county saw 8,343 cases, roughly 1,200 a day. The rolling average increased 30% over the previous seven-day period.

The percentage of positive tests also was deeply concerning: a 27.79% positivity rate, up 2% over the previous seven-day period.

The 961 new hospital admissions, meanwhile, were up nearly 49% over the week prior.

Nearly 32% of the beds in the system — effectively, one in three — are filled with coronavirus patients in various stages of recovery.

More than 52% of ICU berths, meanwhile, see COVID-19 patients fighting for their lives. That’s up nearly 16% from the previous seven days.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at [email protected]


One comment

  • Frankie M.

    August 3, 2021 at 1:44 pm

    A new normal is in reach if “everyone eligible” is vaccinated, she added.
    “Please get the shots,” Greene said.
    Too bad that’s not an option for under 12. Talk about tone deaf…smh. What’re they doing at BK AG since they’re not dependent on state funding?

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