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New emergency order restricts release of coronavirus reporting in schools

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Posted at 5:12 PM, Sep 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-09 18:16:59-04

Several schools across Acadiana welcomed back students to campus this week, weeks after their initial start date, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. KATC has already heard from some in the community about students or staff already being quarantined, less than 24 hours into the new school year.

KATC reached out to the superintendents for each of Acadiana’s school districts to see if any students, teachers or staff have been quarantined and what procedures each district has in place for them.

When KATC asked Lafayette Parish School System about their cases, an LPSS spokesperson responded with the emergency order from the Louisiana Department of Health about school reporting and data sharing and deferred to the Louisiana Department of Education.

"All inquiries received by LDH related to education and the effects of COVID-19 on the operation of schools, such as closings, will be redirected to the LDOE," the order states. "All inquiries related to COVID-19 spread in the school setting and surveillance will be answered by LDH.”

KATC has public records requests to both LDH and LDOE for this information.

"COVID-19 case reporting information received from schools is subject to privacy restrictions outlined in LA R.S. 17:3914," the order states. "Therefore, the State Health Officer has determined that LDH will not disclose to the public COVID-19 positive case statistical information pertaining to individual schools unless such disclosure becomes necessary in order to prevent the further spread of the disease."

You'll recall in August, KATC reached out to the LDH for more detailed information on school outbreaks ahead of students, teachers and staff returning for the upcoming school year. They said they were working with the Louisiana Department of Education and local school districts to come up with a possible system.

Their full response:
“We are collecting and sharing information about outbreaks in school in the aggregate, meaning we will post it on our page tracking outbreaks throughout Louisiana without identifying individual locations or facilities. We are also working with the Louisiana Department of Education and local schools and school districts on the possible disclosure of individual school-level outbreaks, however, the schools and DOE will take the lead on how to make those disclosures and notifications.”

According to the LDH website tracking COVID-19 outbreaks, the department has enrolled 389 schools in its reporting system so far. Of these schools there are: 59 cases statewide; 34 students; and 25 faculty/staff. The site does not say the schools' names or where they are in the state.

When pressed about releasing the information, LDH cited R.S. 40:3.1 that declares records of public health investigations as confidential.

KATC is requesting the same type of data LDH now reports for nursing homes throughout the state, after also initially not reporting it. They spell out the name of the facility, parish, the number of residents and staff who test positive, recovery rates, and fatalities.

We reached out to every parish to see how each individually were handling positive cases in their district:

Acadia Parish

KATC reached out to Superintendent Scott Richard about quarantines and procedures at Acadia Parish schools and are awaiting a response.

Evangeline Parish

KATC reached out to Superintendent Darwan Lazard about quarantines and procedures at Evangeline Parish schools but we have not received a response as of yet.

Iberia Parish

Iberia Parish is reporting that one student is in isolation and two employees are in quarantine since class resumed this week.

According to Superintendent Carey Laviolette, the Iberia Parish School District had one student that was going to attend orientation, but a parent informed staff ahead of time so the student never made contact with any other student or staff and did not come onto campus at all.

Laviolette says that quarantine is meant for students or employees who have come into direct contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Isolation is for students or employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 themselves.

She said that quarantine lasts for 14 days for those who came into contact with someone who maybe positive in 6 ft or less for 15 minutes within a 48 hour period.

Laviolette says that isolation is set at 10 days from the onset of symptoms or a positive test result. And even after 10 days, they have to be symptom-free and fever-free for the past 24 hours.

She said that if a student is found to be positive or showing symptoms when they are at school then parents will be asked to come get their child immediately and given a letter about the procedure.

Jeff Davis Parish

Superintendent Kirk Credeur said that schools in Jeff Davis Parish had only returned for a week before breaking again because of Hurricane Laura, so students and teachers are still not at school.

Credeur said that during that week, to his knowledge, no one tested positive for COVID-19.

However, he said that about 4-5 students and staff decided to self-quarantine during that time because they thought they might have been exposed. He said that none of them turned out to be positive.

Credeur said that over the storm break, schools received emergency mandatory reporting procedures that are now being put in place as Jeff Davis Parish prepares to restart the school year.

He said that they will report cases to the state as they are made aware of them, but that they are depending on students, parents and staff to report potential exposure.

Credeur says that Jeff Davis Parish schools are following the CDC guidelines for determining potential exposure.

Lafayette Parish

KATC reached out to a spokesman for the Lafayette Parish School System about the number of quarantines, but have not received an answer.

St. Landry Parish

KATC reached out to Superintendent Patrick Jenkins about quarantine procedures at St. Landry Parish Schools, which are still operating in an all virtual learning model. He referred us to the school’s lead nurse.

St. Martin Parish

Parents at a St. Martin Parish School are getting notified that a student is self-quarantined after coming in contact with a person that has tested positive for COVID-19.

The superintendent, Allen Blanchard, says the parents of the student self-reported to the school system Wednesday morning that their child came in contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19.

The student attended one of the primary schools in the district and was sitting at a table that had plexiglass separating them from other students.

Blanchard also says the school system is following all protocols at this time and are informing parents that the student shared a classroom with.

St. Mary Parish

KATC reached out to Superintendent Teresa Bagwell about quarantines and procedures at St. Mary Parish schools but we have not received a response as of yet.

Vermilion Parish

KATC reached out to Superintendent Tommy Byler about quarantines and procedures at Vermilion Parish schools but we have not heard back from him yet.

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