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K-12 dashboard in development

The Virginia Department of Health is in the process of developing a K-12 and college dashboard to track positive COVID-19 cases at schools, state officials said Tuesday.

State health commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver said it is preparing a dashboard that will present the number of cases and outbreaks at K-12 schools and colleges to go on its website.

Oliver said the only restrictions on data would be when there are an extremely small number of cases at a location to protect the anonymity of those who test positive and their families.

“It’ll be very similar to what we’ve already done with the nursing homes,” Oliver said.

For long-term care facilities, the dashboard lists the name of the facility with an outbreak, what type of facility it is, the status of the outbreak, when the state department of health was notified, how many cases there are and how many people have died.

Gov. Ralph Northam said he supports increased transparency in the reporting of cases.

“I think you all have seen that when there are positive cases at schools, it’s being reported,” Northam said. “Parents know, et cetera.”

Currently, the state health department reports outbreaks at K-12 schools, child care facilities and colleges or universities, but not a specific number of cases at each, or whether those cases involve students or staff members of those locations.

In the Western Tidewater Health District, there have been 20 outbreaks, but none have been at child care facilities, K-12 schools or colleges. Eleven have been at long-term care facilities, four each at congregate settings and correctional facilities and one in a healthcare setting.

Statewide, three have been 53 outbreaks at child care locations, 31 at K-12 schools and 30 at colleges or universities.

The health district’s seven-day positivity rate as of Oct. 14 is 4.8%, close to the state’s rate of 4.6%. The district’s rate has dropped nearly 10% since Sept. 20. There have been 4,362 positive cases in Western Tidewater, 2,211 of those in Suffolk, with 77 deaths from COVID-19 in the city.

At its Oct. 8 meeting, administrators with Suffolk Public Schools outlined procedures in the event of any COVID-19 cases among students or staff. Parents and guardians will be required to fill out an acknowledgement form saying they will screen their children for COVID-19.

If a staff member contracts COVID-19, Human Resources Director Dr. Rodney Brown would get involved in contact tracing, while the school nurse would do the same in the event a student is positive. Supervisor of Health Services Sara Williford would also be contacted if a case involves a student. The city’s health department would also be contacted to determine next steps.

Any symptomatic students or staff would be required to stay home for 10 days, be fever-free for at least 24 hours without medication before returning to school and show improvement in symptoms. Chief of Administrative Services Suzanne Rice said the division expects the staff member or student to be present in the virtual format during this time, if able.

Director of Facilities and Planning Terry Napier would also be notified to begin the cleaning process.

The school division would send home letters to parents or guardians in the event of a positive COVID-19 case at a school, with different letters going out depending on whether or not there was exposure. It would also note the last time the person was on school property.

On the return-to-school plan discussed at the Oct. 8 meeting, a chart of positive case procedures noted that information and answers to media inquiries would be given to the division’s community engagement officer by its chief of administrative services and the supervisor of health services.