New Hampshire this week launched a state dashboard listing COVID-19 cases in schools.
Pennsylvania has yet to roll out anything similar at the state level.
The National Education Association’s database tracking COVID-19 cases was initially launched by a teacher in Kansas who was concerned because there wasn’t any readily-accessible government data on coronavirus cases in schools. The national teachers’ union took over the effort, and now has a link to the data on its website as well as a portal for teachers to add reports of coronavirus cases in their schools.
Thus far, most of the data on COVID-19 cases has come from media reports, the bulk of them from local newspaper coverage.
Schools are not required to notify the Department of Health if there are coronavirus cases in their buildings because labs notify the Health Department whenever anyone tests positive for COVID-19, said Eric Levis, a Department of Education spokesman.
Contact tracers and case investigators from the Health Department would determine if a student or adult has a connection to a school, he said.
“Once a case has been identified, the school is notified, and they are doing a great job of keeping parents informed,” Levis said.
The Health Department and the Department of Education are still investigating “the best ways to communicate increases in school-aged children,” Levis said.
Chris Lilienthal, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said that the state teachers union has been consistently calling for schools to strictly follow the health and safety guidance on social-distancing and cleaning and sanitizing in schools.
“These guidelines were put out by health experts, and school officials are not health experts,” he said.
Lilienthal said he’s not aware of any evidence that schools have been taking shortcuts that have contributed to outbreaks.
“I can tell you educators are going to be paying attention” in case that changes, he said.