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COVID-19: New dashboard allows state to track cases in school districts

The public at large now has the opportunity to track COVID-19 cases within school districts, according to Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) and Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) officials.

The Alabama K-12 COVID-19 Dashboard, which is located on the ADPH and ALSDE websites and went live on Oct. 30, 2020, allows school nurses the ability to update the number of reported COVID-19 cases within the school system on a weekly basis, according to a release.

The total number of COVID-19 cases posted includes any individual within a school system and does not differentiate between students, teachers or staff. The dashboard provides one weekly, all-inclusive number of COVID-19 cases that have been reported to nurses.

The data presented on the new dashboard is self-reported by local education agencies (LEAs) on a weekly basis. This data is provisional and subject to change. This data may be different than information reported by a school, district, or other entity due to timing of reporting or other factors. ALSDE and ADPH cannot concretely verify and makes no representation regarding the accuracy of the data presented.

State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey said the ability to work with the professionals at ADPH has been invaluable as the state continues to grapple with the most safe and effective ways to move forward to some form of normalcy.

“We are hoping that this dashboard will serve two primary purposes: keeping our parents and communities aware of what is happening in their schools so they can make informed decisions about their children; as well as make sure we are doing everything we can within the school building and school system to mitigate the instances of COVID-19 exposure,” Mackey said.

School nurses have undergone training to make sure they are familiar with data entry protocol. Lead School Nurse for the ALSDE, Jennifer Ventress, said school nurses are required to report communicable diseases – including COVID-19 – on the ADPH report card and report COVID-19 cases to this new dashboard. She said school nurses are always at the forefront of caring for students.

“Our nurses are essential to keeping schools and communities as safe as possible and will continue to work with ADPH on efforts such as these,” Ventress said. She also said the reported numbers will not specify individual schools, nor will it identify whether a case is that of a student, teacher, or staff.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said, “We want to balance the privacy of students, faculty and staff with our wish to provide parents the best information about COVID-19 cases in their children’s school system.”

“Student safety and concern for their individual right to privacy is a huge concern for us. There are federal guidelines and considerations that must be adhered to,” Ventress said. “Our objective is to report as accurately as possible while maintaining the integrity of everyone’s medical information. These numbers will be reported by school system, not by individual school, to discourage using the process of elimination to determine who may be impacted by the virus.”

Visit the dashboard here https://alpublichealth.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/c6909b3820ae4047b0317fa00abc46fc.