Tracking COVID-19 cases inside local schools

Jennifer Lewke
Updated: September 16, 2020 05:19 PM
Created: September 16, 2020 04:12 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There have already been confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our local schools and those inevitably will continue as we get into the school year.

Parents are now able to see exactly how many cases have been confirmed in every public school in the state on a website being maintained and updated by the New York State Department of Health but you’ll have to dig deeper to put those numbers in context.  

Before school even started, a staff member tested for COVID-19 during training in Fairport. During the first week of school in Rush-Henrietta, two elementary students had confirmed cases of the virus.

Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza says this will become even more common as we move into the school year.

“We’ve learned of positives and a number of our superintendent colleagues have informed their communities about these positives but we’ve done the tracing, we’ve identified the risk and in general there has been no need to close classrooms down so, so far so good,” he told News10NBC.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases per school is available to the public here. It provides the number of confirmed cases in both students and teachers compared to the entire school census.

When Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the website would go live he said, “It'll tell you everything you need to know about where that school district is with COVID.”

But, it doesn’t cover quite everything. Dr. Mendoza says you need to look beyond just the numbers.

“The difficulty with the dashboard is that the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The example I use is if we reported a 10 one day but in those 10 cases, we’re able to identify all the contacts for them than that would be much more reassuring than a one where we were not able to identify any of the contacts.  So, more than the numbers themselves will be the story that we tell and that story will always be better if people wear their mask,” he said.

Most local superintendents are also stressing to parents that context is key.

“My concern is that hopefully people don't get alarmed by that (the numbers) because I do expect that we're going to have positive case,” said Kathleen Graupman the Superintendent of Greece Schools.  

That’s why most districts plan to provide not just the number of positive cases but more information about how they handle each case, on their own websites.

“We have already worked out a way within our system to be able to pull that data on a daily basis and then update our community,” Graupman said.

If schools need any additional help keeping families informed, they’re under the watchful eye of the county health department, “we want that communication to come from the school districts because the superintendents and the teachers know their community better than I will certainly but we're going to be involved and we're going to provide recommendations on how to accurately capture the risks, and in the areas where there are no risks.  I think that is the part of the conversation that we need to continue,” Dr. Mendoza said.

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