Dept. of Health says it won't share school-related COVID-19 information

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Posted at 10:01 PM, Jul 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-31 23:42:54-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee leaders warn there will be school-related COVID-19 cases as students head back to class, but the state Dept. of Health does not plan to share any data from school cases.

In a media briefing on Tuesday, Tennessee Dept. of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said school-related COVID-19 cases won't be made public.

In a statement to NewsChannel 5, a spokesperson said the department won't be collecting formal reports either. The statement read:

"As Dr. Piercey noted during Tuesday’s media briefing, we continue to prioritize privacy concerns related to COVID-19 patients. At this time we do not plan to ask school districts to submit formal reports to us about COVID-19 cases, and do not plan to systematically release school-specific information on cases among students and/or staff members. We do encourage school districts to keep track of cases within their district so they can best understand the burden of disease in their jurisdiction and take appropriate steps to mitigate further spread of illness.

It’s important to note that we continue to do contact tracing and monitoring of cases, so anyone identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 case will be notified by public health officials. In addition, we are providing data on COVID-19 cases among school-aged children for each Tennessee county in a new downloadable data set, available on our website at []."

"I feel like why would they not want us to have that information?" Sheri Patterson said.

Patterson's son will be a senior at RePublic High School. "We have to have that information so we can make educated choices for our children's education."

Patterson said the data would also be useful for school districts, who could look to other areas to see what strategies were working to contain COVID-19 spread.

"We could actually use the data to make educated decisions and choices, but as a district moving forward," Patterson said.

The Metropolitan Nashville Education Association voiced concerns as well, saying the state's policy leaves teachers in the dark.

"We need to have the best data available," MNEA President Amanda Kail said. "Being transparent is super important, we need to know that whatever the plan is is working, and if we can't see the data we don't know its working."