JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After days of uncertainty, it appears that the public will soon have access to COVID-19 data related to schools in Duval County.
Duval County School Board member Elizabeth Andersen told News4Jax on Thursday that a dashboard that will provide a breakdown of how many cases of coronavirus have been reported in schools could happen as early as next week.
This comes after the Florida Department of Health asked the district to stop reporting staff and students testing positive in schools last week.
“I spoke to Dr. Greene this morning. This is something we are monitoring closely. I think we got a verbal confirmation that this is something we should be able to release a dashboard next week,” said Andersen, the Duval School Board vice chair. “We are waiting on some written communication on that. We hope that any day now we will get that communication and be able to move forward.”
Florida schools continue to navigate how to tell parents and employees of potential outbreaks happening on school campuses.
In Duval County, school officials had to write a letter to the Florida Department of Health asking permission to publish how many cases are in each of its schools after the state health officials told them the information was “confidential” and to stop reporting the cases.
“For families to be able to, and for us as a district, to be able to understand what the implications are and how this virus is progressing through our school is really important,” Andersen said.
Already school districts across Florida like those in Hillsborough, Alachua and Pasco counties have posted coronavirus dashboards, automatically updating to show the new count of COVID-19 cases in each of its schools.
The Volusia County school district is the latest to post its dashboard after being told by local health officials the information was confidential.
In explaining why it published the data, the school district said “the Florida Department of Education requested COVID-19 reporting at the district level.”
News4Jax reached out to the Florida Department of Education about the guidance.
In a statement, a spokesperson said “reporting of data is completely voluntary,” adding that, “we have always stated that schools and districts should openly communicate with their education family and community, while keeping in mind the confidentiality of the student or staff member.”
“I think there is an abundance of caution to make sure the data doesn’t release any one’s personal health information, which is understandable, but the dashboard we plan to publish does not,” Andersen said.
Parents who have students that come in contact with a confirmed positive, or an employee who does, will receive a letter and a phone call from the Department of Health for contact tracing.
And the district can send out a letter regarding a confirmed positive to the parents of that school.
However, there can be a delay between the identification of the case and that call.
And for parents, deciding to bring their children back to the school setting wouldn’t have that information without this dashboard.