Michigan to identify K-12 schools with coronavirus outbreaks Sept. 14

Michigan to identify K-12 schools with coronavirus outbreaks Sept. 14

The state considers a COVID-19 “outbreak” as two or more cases “with a link by place and time indicating a shared exposure outside of a household,” Sutfin has previously said.

Sutfin cautioned that the absence of a school name from the list doesn’t mean parents, students and staff should let down their guard in following COVID-19 safety protocols. Nor does a school’s listing assign any fault for a virus outbreak, she said.

“The presence of cases at a school does not indicate that they are not following proper procedures,” such as ensuring masks are worn and students and staff are abiding by social-distancing protocols, she said.

In Michigan, notification of a school COVID-19 outbreak is merely “strongly recommended” in the state’s Return to School Roadmap, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s plan to reopen schools, which was released June 30. 

Schools and school districts are given broad discretion on how wide a circle of people or families to notify when students or staff test positive for the virus, although public health departments are tasked with contact tracing and notifying anyone who has been in direct contact with an infected person.

MDHHS and several county and district health departments told Bridge last month they would not automatically release the names of K-12 schools, colleges or universities with COVID-19 outbreaks, citing privacy issues, the narrow focus of public health investigations in contact tracing, and a desire to avoid gossip or rumors about schools. 

On Aug. 21, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, told Bridge the state would eventually release the names of schools where there are outbreaks, but only after it was able to transform its computer system to capture that information. She said it may take weeks, however,  and did not set a firm date on when that would happen. 

Critics called for greater, more immediate transparency. Earlier Tuesday, more than 30 Michigan news and government transparency organizations delivered a letter to Whitmer urging rapid release of school-related COVID outbreak details as students and educators start the new school year. 

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