Coronavirus: 1 local patient a worker at Niblack Elementary

  • Niblack Elementary will be shuttered, then disinfected.
    Niblack Elementary will be shuttered, then disinfected.

School officials say they’re taking extra precautions following news that one of the two COVID-19 cases now confirmed in Columbia County involves a 46-year-old woman employed at Niblack Elementary.

Schools are shut down statewide and won’t be open again until at least April 15. 

Nobody has set foot in Niblack since spring break started, said Superintendent Lex Carswell. But teachers were expected to be coming and going in small numbers starting next week, so they could prepare distance-learning courses.

“There would have been some back in there starting today if this had not happened,” Carswell said. 

The School District is barring all entry into the building. Carswell on Monday said the school would be locked off for seven days — the virus can only survive on surfaces for so long. Following that, the school will be thoroughly sanitized, Carswell said. 

“Nobody else is getting in until a deep cleaning,” he said. 

Niblack was supposed to be a meal delivery site where parents could receive food from the school for their children. 

That’s being moved to Richardson Community Center, Carswell said. 

The United States had seen more than 40,000 cases by Monday afternoon, with Florida topping 1,100. 

When Columbia County’s first two cases were announced over the weekend, Carswell sent a memo Sunday to employees confirming that one of their own was affected by the virus. 

“It is with great concern that we have to tell you that one of our Niblack family members has tested positive for Covid-19,” the memo reads. “Chief, among all things, we want to keep everyone safe and healthy. We are working with the Columbia County Health Department & Niblack faculty and staff to work through this situation and make plans for the coming weeks. At this time our work schedule for the next week has changed. All 12-month employees will report on Tuesday, March 24. All other employees will stay home until Monday, March 30 and await further instructions. Instructional Staff, please expect to get an email from your administrators this week. We will update you with more information as it becomes available. Please check your emails several times a day. Watch the Columbia County School District website for more information. Out of respect for our fellow employee, we need to refrain from sharing this information on social media outlets. Stay safe, stay healthy and obey the health protocols that have been shared by the CDC and our local Health Department.”

The second COVID-19 case involves a 70-year-old woman, according to the Florida Department of Health in Columbia County. 

Neither case was listed as travel-related, meaning the virus was not transmitted to them abroad, according to the health department.