Florida Times-Union | by Emily Bloch | August 19, 2020
The City of Jacksonville and Duval County Public Schools are splitting the bill on a $1.5 million project to provide rapid COVID-19 testing to school district employees.
One day ahead of Duval County Public Schools opening its doors to students for the first time since March, Mayor Lenny Curry, Superintendent Diana Greene and City Councilwoman Brenda Priestly-Jackson hosted a joint press conference to announce the project.
“These measures are paramount for us to fight COVID-19,” Greene said at the conference.
According to the superintendent, the funding will go toward seven drive-thru rapid testing sites, spread across schools in each district, as well as 25 additional nurses. Some of the nurses will be completely dedicated to rapid testing.
The testing sites will be open to all DCPS faculty and staff. Greene said appointments will be made through a school principal and teachers will drive to the site, go home for the rest of the day and know their results within 24 hours.
“This is an enhancement for our teachers,” Priestly-Jackson, who approached Curry with the project said. Priestly-Jackson comes from a family of teachers, including her father and her husband — who she said will return to the classroom Thursday. “This is something specifically targeted for teachers and staff who are our most precious resources and are on the front lines with this.”
Curry added that he hopes the additional testing measures will help give families peace of mind ahead of school starting Thursday.
“As a parent, I understand the anxiety and stress many families are facing,” he said. “As we go back to school, our superintendent and school board have put preventative measures in place. We have to learn to live with this while we don’t have a vaccine.”
Though these new testing sites will be exclusively available to Duval Schools employees, Curry and Greene said the city-wide testing sites as well as pediatric offices are offering testing for children.
“The situation is fluid as we navigate this. We have a tremendous start here on rapid testing for teachers and staff,” Curry said. “There is already tremendous testing access [for the general public].”
Recent reports indicate testing rates have decreased city and statewide, in turn, largely decreasing wait and turnaround times for results.
During the press conference, Curry provided general COVID-19 updates, including 130 new cases in Duval County in 24 hours and a daily percent positive rate of 4.2 percent — the lowest Jacksonville has seen in two weeks.
He added that he looked forward to the annual Florida—Georgia football rivalry, which is planned to continue in Jacksonville despite the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m proud to see this tradition continue,” Curry said. “I’m sure this game will probably look and feel different, but it speaks to the resilience of our city.”