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Getting Answers: COVID numbers from parish schools

Teacher creates national database of Covid-19-related school closures
Posted at 2:44 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 15:45:18-04

As teachers and other staff returned to school this month - and this week students return as well - KATC began to get calls from parents and teachers about positive cases at Acadiana schools.

Most school systems are refusing to provide information about positive cases; For instance when we asked LPSS officials to verify the reports we had of positive teachers, counselors and principals at Lafayette schools we were told that the system would not be providing that information.

We then went to the state, because all positive cases are reported to the state. And, every week, the Louisiana Department of Health reports the number of positive cases at Louisiana nursing homes, broken down by category: residents, employees, etc.

So we asked the state: Why can we know how many employees are positive at a nursing home, but not at a school? Why would the fact that a student at a school with 700 students be concealed, but the fact that a resident of a nursing home with 50 residents or fewer be public?

Yesterday during his press conference the Governor said he believes universities should make information regarding positive cases available to the public:

He announced that LDH is developing a reporting system for K-12 schools, and will be communicating with schools over the next few days. Some districts and schools already have plans in place, he said.

"We do believe there needs to be accurate data that is made public by the universities," Edwards said in response to a media question. "We want people to have confidence in what we're doing, and what we do know is that if you are not sharing data quickly and transparently, that confidence erodes."

So we asked: Why would K-12 schools be different than universities? Don't parents and teachers need to know what is happening at their own school?

After several days of back-and-forth among legal representatives for KATC, the Governor's office and LDH, we received this assurance today:

The Louisiana Department of Health and the Department of Education have been working closely on preparations for children returning to school, including on a COVID-19 school surveillance system that would help drive public health action. While LDH investigations and data are protected, the system would allow the DOE and local schools and school districts to efficiently report relevant COVID-19 data in schools for greater public visibility. We expect this system to be in place soon. We recognize the importance of making this information available and are working to have it in place as soon as possible.

We will update this story as soon as this system is made available.