Ohio’s first school-based COVID-19 data coming Thursday

Ohio Department of Health officials will release school-based COVID-19 case data statewide for the first time on Thursday, while individual schools continue to notify their communities of new cases.

On Sept. 3, Gov. Mike DeWine announced a new ODH order spelling out reporting steps for positive coronavirus tests tied to schools.

The order “encourages” parents of K-12 students who test positive for the virus to notify the children’s schools beginning Sept. 8, but does not mandate that reporting.

Schools are then required to report any positive tests they are aware of involving students, teachers, staff members or coaches to their local health department within 24 hours.

But the order says those local health departments don’t have to start reporting the school-related data they receive to ODH until this Tuesday.

ODH data released Thursday showed that Ohioans age 0-19 made up 11% of the state’s COVID cases in both June and July, then 16% in August, and 23% in the first week and a half of September.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Several schools have seen COVID cases, but none of the dozens of public schools that started in-person classes so far locally have reported major outbreaks or backed off from their in-person approach.

Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County, said there are still some questions about school case reporting.

“Dayton Public Schools isn’t having in-person classes. So if a DPS student has a case, will ODH report it that way?” Suffoletto said. “There’s no spread (of the virus) at school if those students aren’t in class … but some of those students are having football practice, so it’s complicated.”

Schools are also required to notify parents whose students share a classroom space or who participated in an activity with an infected person. And they have to notify all families who have a student in the same school, although that notification doesn’t have to be a direct email. It can be a posting on a school website.

Local schools varied in their public reporting of positive coronavirus tests during August, before the order was issued. Oakwood, Huber Heights, Northmont and some other districts quickly notified families, the general public and media when students or staff have tested positive.

Dayton Public Schools has not publicized any positive tests, but Athletic Director Victoria Jones told school board members at a late August meeting that four DPS athletes tested positive during the summer.

More recently, Springboro schools on Thursday emailed parents about “a confirmed case of COVID-19 in your student’s school, bus, classroom, group, or team.” The notice told families that unless they received a separate “Notification of Exposure” letter, their student was not exposed.

The followed up later with further explanation that the person testing positive was a high school student on a Springboro team who did not attend school during last week’s start of classes. That case eventually led to the cancelation of Friday’s scheduled Springboro-Miamisburg football game.

West Carrollton schools last week notified families of four COVID cases even though classes are online. The district does have athletes participating in fall sports, and the football team cancelled Friday’s game as well as this week’s upcoming game in connection with the positive tests.

Lebanon is among the school districts that lists updated case information on its website for families. The district of 5,000-plus students reported no new cases during the week of Aug. 31-Sept. 4, but had 13 people quarantined by the Warren County Health District.

The new state order says ODH “shall publish aggregate weekly and cumulative case data by school … or school district, including a breakdown by students and staff, every Thursday.”

Ohio Department of Health press secretary Melanie Amato said Thursday’s first report will be available on the coronavirus.ohio.gov website, likely on the COVID-19 dashboard portion of the site, although specifics are still being worked out.

Amato said the weekly school report from ODH would only include cases since the Sept. 8 reporting date.

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