‘What are we supposed to do?’: Polk State College student tests positive for coronavirus


POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A case of COVID-19 connected to Polk State College has students on high alert as the number of cases in Polk County continue to rise.

The Florida Department of Health in Polk County notified Polk State College that a student on its Winter Haven campus had tested positive for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.

“The Florida Department of Health could not disclose the patient’s name due to HIPAA laws and other regulations,” said Dr. Angela Garcia Falconetti, Polk State College president. “However the patient disclosed to the Florida Department of Health the classes in which the student is enrolled.”

The college called students and professors who were in close proximity to the student in those classes, the president said.

“Just because that student might not specifically be in my class, that doesn’t mean I haven’t interacted with them. It’s just kind of heartbreaking like, ok, what are we supposed to do?” asked Nelson Bristol, a sophomore nursing student who lives and studies in Winter Haven.

The student is a 21-year old female who recently traveled to Georgia, the health department told 8 On Your Side. The Polk County woman’s illness was related to that travel and is the second known case of coronavirus in Polk County.

“It’s different hearing things on the news or seeing things on social media but it’s a little different when it hits home,” said Bristol. “It’s like, ok, what if that was one of the students I had classes with, what if that’s somebody that I know?”

Like many students, Bristol travels between Polk State College campuses in Winter Haven, Lakeland, and Lake Wales.

Students will resume classes online March 30 and classes will remain online through the end of the semester.

All student clubs, activities, and events have been suspended for the remainder of the semester.

Lakeland Regional Health announced a third Polk County case of coronavirus Thursday afternoon.

The hospital was notified by the Health Department that an 88-year old male in its care tested positive for COVID-19.

“The Department of Health will notify exposed individuals in the community and investigate the possible source of the infection while providing them additional direction and guidance. This patient was appropriately triaged by our medical teams with the use of screening protocols recommended by state and federal agencies,” the press release from Lakeland Regional Health reads.


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