K-12 students are returning to school, and COVID-19 cases are rising; however, some states are refusing to publicly release information of COVID-19 cases in schools. This is a big mistake.
According to an NBC News article by Benjy Sarlin and Suzy Khimm, some states are not disclosing data about outbreaks of students and faculty and are relying on local officials to decide whether to release data publicly.
States such as Alabama and California are not releasing data about COVID-19 outbreaks in schools while some states such as Florida, Idaho, and Illinois are deciding whether to release data about outbreaks, according to a survey from NBC News.
Some states are holding data from the public due to privacy concerns.
Tennessee was one of them. According to a Tennessean article by Meghan Mangrum, Gov. Lee and Public Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said that Tennessee refused to report confirmed cases due to federal privacy laws.
Now, the Tennessee Department of Education is deciding to report COVID-19 cases in schools. As reported by the Tennessee State Government, TDOE is releasing a dashboard that allows school districts to report information about COVID-19 cases in their schools. To protect privacy laws, the dashboard will not report information from schools with fewer than 50 students.
Although Tennessee is starting to release data, other states are still struggling to do so.
It is time for the states that are not releasing data of outbreaks in school to report data to the public.
Knowing about outbreaks in schools will bring awareness of COVID-19 and will inform parents about confirmed cases of students and faculty. Awareness can also help students and parents to think about social distancing and whether students should do school online or in-person.
Increasing COVID-19 cases causes some schools to close down, including one high school in Georgia. According to a message from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower of Cherokee County School District, Etowah High School in Georgia temporarily closed its in-person learning on Tuesday, August 11.
Spanish Fort High School in Alabama announced that it had nine students who “have been diagnosed or are suspected of having COVID-19,” an NBC 15 article by Tanner Gilliland reported.
While privacy laws are important, informing students, faculty, and family will help them see which schools are affected. It will be a shame if students return to schools, only for the schools to close down due to increasing cases or that students are told to quarantine themselves.
Communication between states and students is important, especially during the pandemic when times are stressful for students who are returning to school or who are entering a new school.