FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/KDE) – The Kentucky Department for Public Health is developing a website that will allow Kentucky’s schools to self-report COVID-19 cases to their communities.
Dr. Connie White, DPH deputy commissioner, explained how the website will work during the Kentucky Department of Education’s Superintendent Advisory Council meeting on Aug. 31.
Through the website, schools will be asked to enter the number of newly reported student and staff COVID-19 cases, and the number of students and staff quarantined due to the virus. This data will be expected to be entered daily by the schools. If there are no new cases or individuals in quarantine, the school will enter zeros for all of the options.
The cases entered by the school will not be confirmed positive cases, rather cases that have been reported to the school. Local health departments will work to validate the cases and provide an accurate number of confirmed positive cases.
“The governor was very interested in making sure that parents, that faculty, administrators, staff, the community had a much better understanding of what was happening for them locally,” White said of the website.
According to White, the website has been completed, but will not be made public until guidance surrounding the reporting process is ready to be shared.
White said the idea for the website is to provide more transparency for the community. However, many of the council members expressed concerns about the data they will be providing.
“It seems to me that the most accurate data to report would be that which we get from our health department,” said Scott Hawkins, Woodford County superintendent. “My concern is on the student cases. We’re going to be putting information out there that may not be accurate.”
White reiterated that the numbers entered by the school are self-reported based on what is communicated to them. This website will allow local communities to see what schools are dealing with on a daily basis, White said.
Jason Glass, Kentucky’s incoming education commissioner and chief learner, also had concerns about the website – specifically socioeconomic factors and language barriers that come with self-reporting to schools.
He said he also is worried about the potential for abuse of the self-reporting system.
“If we have a group of students who want to shut down the school, they may call in and report that they have a number of cases,” he said.
White said if schools were to get suspicious reports like this, they should follow up with their local health departments and attempt to verify if several school-aged students have tested positive.
Due to the overwhelming concerns raised by superintendents during the meeting, mainly surrounding the possibility of reporting inaccurate information to their communities, Interim Commissioner Kevin C. Brown recommended to White to delay the website launch until KDE officials can meet with DPH.
Glass echoed this request, stating that he and the superintendents “share an interest in wanting to have valid information and wanting to make that available to the public.”
Healthy at School Update
Kelly Foster, KDE associate commissioner in the Office of Continuous Improvement and Support, discussed with the SAC members a change in the flagship Healthy at School reopening guidance.
As of Aug. 31, the document says cloth face coverings are required for all students and staff at all times while in the building or on the bus, unless there is a medical waiver. Students and staff should only lower their masks while actively eating or drinking.
The change is reflected on pages 7, 8, 9, 10 and 13 of the Healthy at School guidance document.
Foster said masks for kindergarteners and preschoolers will be a local decision, but several districts have already made this a requirement.
“Just a reminder, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says that anyone above the age of 2 can wear a mask safely,” said Foster.
As for recess, Foster said as long as students are socially distanced outside, they can remove their masks.
“It was very obvious that public health wanted to make this recommendation and we agree with the recommendation 100%,” said Foster. “We want to try to keep all of our students, faculty and staff members as safe as possible.”
The SAC will meet again on Sept. 28.