OCPS warning families to be safe over winter break to avoid rise in COVID-19 cases

Ahead of the Orange County Public Schools winter break, the school district superintendent is warning parents to follow CDC guidelines so that the district doesn't see a rise in COVID-19 cases when classes resume in January. 

Friday marks the last day of school before a 2-week winter break and the OCPS Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins is warning parents to avoid large gatherings and practice safety guidelines. OCPS saw an increase in cases after Thanksgiving and do not want to see an increase after Christmas. 

"If we are not careful during a 2-week winter break we will see a reflection of that when students return in January," said Dr. Barbara Jenkins. "Contain those family holiday gatherings to very small numbers." 

About 18,000 more students will be returning to face-to-face learning after the winter break. That brings the total to about 100,000 students back in the classroom which is nearly 50% of OCPS students. 

"Our dread is that when we bring those 18,000 students, additional students, back that we will see an enormous increase based on activity that took place during the winter break," said Dr. Jenkins. 

Dr. Raul Pino with the Florida Department of Health is telling families to not get too comfortable in their homes. 

"Wash your hands often," said Dr. Pino. "Don't think that home is safe." 

Dr. Pino says through contact tracing, the Florida Department of Health has found a high number of COVID-19 transmissions happening within people's homes. 

"That's now the issue. That it's widespread in the community and people come back home from different directions and stay home for 8-10 hours together," said Dr. Pino. 

Dr. Pino is advising people who have extended family over, who do not normally live in the home, to keep their distance and masks on when they can. 

"We can still share food, we can still share time, watch TV together, and be separated," said Dr. Pino. 

Starting Friday night, there will be a COVID-19 notification link on the Orange County School District website that will allow parents to report when a student or staff member tests positive over winter break. 

Tune in to FOX 35 Orlando for the latest coronavirus news.