RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Department of Health announced Friday that it has launched a new dashboard on the website that shows K-12 schools reporting outbreaks of COVID-19.
The data will be updated weekly on Fridays and the dashboard lists public and private K-12 schools that are currently experiencing, or have experienced, a COVID-19 outbreak.
Health officials say the dashboard is expected to help schools “measure the extent to which the COVID-19 virus is spreading in their localities and guide possible responses to mitigate that spread.”
“Fully re-opening our schools remains a priority as we work to slow the spread of COVID-19. Students have different learning styles, and for some, face-to-face interactions in a classroom are important to achievement. Educational settings also provide significant social benefits that cannot be overstated,” said M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A., Virginia State Health Commissioner.
Only distinct outbreaks investigated by the local health department and associated cases and deaths related to the school are included. Health officials also say that only cases associated with outbreaks are displayed — not the total number of cases among students or staff unrelated to the outbreak.
Additionally, transmission must occur within the school facility or at a school-sponsored event among students, faculty, staff, or visitors to be classified as a “school-associated outbreak.”
“By providing additional information on where outbreaks are occurring we hope to provide a broader picture of the impact of COVID-19 and help communities decide where to place resources to prevent and control outbreaks. Given the changing nature of the pandemic, we felt providing these data at this time poses no risk to public health investigations or to compromising patient anonymity,” Oliver continued.
K-12 schools are defined in this dashboard as public or private primary and secondary schools that provide kindergarten through 12th-grade education instruction. K-12 school outbreaks may include pre-kindergarten (Pre-K) students if Pre-K instruction occurs at a K-12 school.
“The presence of an outbreak at a school does not reflect a school’s ability to educate its students or to protect the health and safety of its school community. Schools and local health departments work together to identify best practices to prevent and control COVID-19 in schools and to promote a healthy learning environment for students and staff,” said health officials in a statement released Friday.
Per the Virginia Department of Health:
“Rationale: This dashboard meets the requirements of HB5048 and SB5081 of the 2020 Virginia General Assembly Special Session Number One that are specific to schools. It helps inform local communities about the impact of COVID-19 in K-12 schools to aid in making decisions that support the health and safety of students and school staff in Virginia. Additional outbreak settings that are listed in these bills will be added soon.“
To find out more about an outbreak or the measures in place to protect students, staff, and visitors, contact the specific school directly.
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