New dashboard tracks school virus cases

New dashboard tracks school virus cases

By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (AP) — Alabama public schools reported 723 cases of COVID-19 among students, teachers and employees in the last week, according to a new state dashboard that debuted Friday.

It shows the number of cases reported by school systems to the state, but not numbers by individual schools. Some school systems are providing that information on their own sites. The dashboard does not include private schools.

LINK: Alabama K-12 COVID-19 School Dashboard

The Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama State Department of Education collaborated on the tool intended to provide parents with weekly information about the state of the virus outbreak in school systems. The numbers are self-reported by school systems. Not all school systems reported cases.

State Health Officer Scott Harris said the tool can help parents track the state of the pandemic in their child’s school system.

Asked if the 723 was higher or lower than what they anticipated, Harris said age ranges of COVID-19 patients had given an indication of the number of K-12 students being infected.

“As the school year progresses we will know more about what this number means and if it is a low week or a high week,” Harris said. “We just need a little more context.”

Four large school systems — Blount, Jefferson, Shelby and Tuscaloosa County school districts — reported 35 or more cases for the week.

Since the pandemic began, nearly 200,000 Alabamians have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and almost 3,000 people in the state have died after contracting the virus, according to state numbers. Children 17 and younger have accounted for about 10% of the state’s COVID-19 cases although few deaths in children have been reported.

The state has seen a steady climb in virus cases and this week the number of people who were hospitalized climbed above 1,000 for the first time since Aug. 31. While worsening, the total is much lower than in July, when around 1,600 people were treated daily in hospitals after a surge of cases that health officials believe was linked to the Fourth of July holiday.

The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but it can be deadly for the elderly and people with other, serious health problems.