Henrico Schools to post COVID-19 data weekly, not daily

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 6:38 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2021 at 6:59 PM EDT
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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Henrico County Public School (HCPS) leaders announcing changes when it comes to publicly posting its COVID-19 case counts.

For the last 18 months, the school system has updated the dashboard on a daily basis, but come Monday, Sept. 27 it will transition to weekly updates.

HCPS administrators said Thursday the change was a way to ensure all the numbers are accurate, especially with the amount of time and effort spent on contact tracing.

“Additional time was needed to reconcile data prior to posting it on the division’s COVID data dashboard,” said HCPS Chief of Staff Dr. Beth Teigen.

Currently, the COVID-19 dashboard is empty. A message on the website stating the number of cases and exposures are currently being audited to reflect the most accurate data.

“The dashboard will be updated weekly,” Teigen said during the health committee update at the school board work session. “Schools will submit the total number of positive cases and the number of close contacts within their school each Friday, with the update to the website no later than Monday.”

Additionally, messages from principals about the number of COVID-19 cases and exposures would also be sent out on a daily basis.

However, some school board members have heard concerns over these changes, especially since surrounding school systems – like Richmond and Chesterfield – are reporting cases daily.

“The reality is, until we go through that contact tracing, it doesn’t go down because we don’t know the total count of close contacts from those possible exposures,” Teigen explained.

However, school leaders emphasized this change will not impact when families get called for contact tracing.

“If you were a close contact, you’ll be notified in a timely manner during the contact tracing process,” said HCPS Superintendent Dr. Amy Cashwell.

Currently, 20 contact tracers through the Richmond & Henrico Health Districts are working with HCPS on this effort.

Per Teigen, HCPS staff is processing any community transmitted cases, while RHHD handles in-school transmission.

“We have less resources than the health department does, so there are less community cases that, if necessary, come into our school,” she added. “Right now, that’s how they’re getting divided up.”

According to HCPS, since Aug. 27 there have been more than 100 cases with four outbreaks.

During the school board work session Thursday, COVID data showed high community transmission across the county, but a low level of school transmission.

Meanwhile, the school system is also looking at another avenue to curb COVID transmission among students and staff.

“A study conducted by Mathematica, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, found that weekly testing of all students, teachers and staff can reduce in school infections by an estimated 50%,” Teigen said.

On Wednesday, HCPS joined the Virginia School Screening Testing for Assurance (ViSSTA) program through the Virginia Department of Health and Virginia Department of Education, requesting an initial 2,500 COVID-19 take-home test kits.

“The parent or legal guardian would use the kit in conjunction with a medical professional using a telehealth service to ensure accuracy of sample collected,” Teigen explained.

Those tests would need parents and/or guardians consent before being sent out.

School leaders hope students and staff will be open to this opportunity of curbing the spread.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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