Student tests positive for COVID-19 after inaccurate bus seating chart prevents proper contact tracing

Contact tracing is a key tool to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Contact tracers let someone know they need to quarantine after having close contact with a person who tests positive.

The mother of a Hillsborough County student says school contact tracers missed her daughter. She is concerned the same thing is happening to others across the district. However, Hillsborough County Public Schools maintains this was an isolated incident.

Jamie Saracino’s daughter tested positive for COVID-19 last week, but that is not the reason she’s upset.

“She’s doing fine, she’s gonna be fine, and I knew that risk as a parent, that sending my kids to school, they’re at risk of getting COVID,” Jamie explained.

She is concerned because she was never told her daughter needed to quarantine after possibly sitting on the school bus near another Apollo Beach Elementary student who tested positive for COVID-19. Jamie’s fourth-grader told her they shared a seat on the bus for almost an entire week.

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“Basically, there was no way that my child was exposed because they produced a seating chart and on that seating chart my daughter was not sitting next to the child that had COVID,” said Jamie.

According to Hillsborough County Public Schools, the district's COVID-19 response team relies on seating charts and rosters to identify students and staff who need to quarantine due to close contact. The problem is, the seating chart on this bus route was not being enforced.

District officials told FOX 13 News they did not learn about the mixup until days after the first positive case.

“There’s possibly huge exposures here that we’re not identifying that need to be identified, and so we can protect other children and other families, teachers,” Jamie said.

Despite all this, Jamie's daughter would not have been told to quarantine because -- according to the district's guidelines -- the bus ride was too short to qualify as "contact."

Writing in an email, “We follow CDC guidelines for what is considered close contact. Those who have been within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes would be identified as being required to quarantine.”

“To me, it’s aggravating that there’s supposed to be a system in place that was not followed and that’s the problem,” said Jamie.

Officials say the bus driver has been retrained on procedures and school staff is making sure students are sitting in their assigned seats.


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