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Indiana virus dashboard lacks data from hundreds of schools

Nearly two months after Indiana officials said they would release a public dashboard to help track coronavirus cases among students and teachers, the online tool still lacks data from more than 1,000 schools.

Posted: Oct 8, 2020 4:04 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Nearly two months after Indiana officials said they would release a public dashboard to help track coronavirus cases among students and teachers, the online tool still lacks data from more than 1,000 schools.

Unveiled on the state health department's website last week, the new dashboard reflects the new and cumulative numbers of positive COVID-19 cases among students, teachers and other workers in a given school. The latest round of data, updated in the dashboard Monday afternoon, reflects at least 2,845 positive COVID-19 cases in schools around the state since the new school year started this fall.

But the dashboard's numbers provide only a partial picture of COVID-19's spread in schools. As of Thursday, 1,067 schools — nearly 40% of those in the state — still have not submitted information to the database.

Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said during a news conference Wednesday that “technical issues” are part to blame for the lag in reporting. Health department officials are additionally working to remove duplicate data entries, which takes time, Box said.

“We are continuing to work with some schools that have encountered difficulty actually accessing the portal and giving us information,” Box said. “We’re also working with those schools that we have not seen any attempts for the data yet, but I think most importantly our schools have been very overwhelmed with trying to keep up with contact tracing, reporting cases, helping us to quarantine individuals, and making sure that their students have food for those times that the students are virtual.”

At the dashboard's initial release, only 1,359 schools had reported their COVID-19 statistics. In the past week, 396 more schools contributed data, adding 491 new COVID-19 cases and bringing the total up to 1,755 schools reporting.

Current data shows 944 schools have reported one or more cases, and 811 have reported no cases. Students make up the majority of the reported cases, with 1,192 cases, with another 406 cases reported among the state’s teachers and 447 cases in other staff members.

Still, because the reporting by schools is voluntary, the state dashboard numbers won’t fully capture cases. If school participation becomes an issue, Box has warned the state may consider making it mandatory for district leaders to report their data, although she hasn't said that's been an issue yet.

Even after more schools report data, the dashboard also doesn’t list the percentage of those within schools testing positive for COVID-19, known as the positivity rate. That data point is used by Indiana officials in the state's color-coded, county-by-county rating system to gauge the severity of virus spread and to help determine potential mitigation plans. While state health experts have said the new school tracker is intended to help local leaders make similar decisions — such as when to open or close school buildings — Box has not indicated whether that metric will be added to the dashboard.

Schools reporting fewer than five positive cases additionally have their data suppressed to protect privacy, which so far is the case for a majority of schools that have reported COVID-19 cases to the database.

The tracker’s release follows concerns from health experts over sharp increases in COVID-19 cases among Indiana’s younger population groups, as well as nearly two months of pushback from journalists and educators about a need for more state transparency regarding the spread of the virus in schools.

Data in the dashboard is now scheduled to be updated each week. Box emphasized again Wednesday that case totals are likely to continue increasing as more schools submit their data in the coming weeks.

“I feel confident that the schools that are reporting are giving us very good data and information," Box said. "We’re really working in partnership with them and expected that this would take a number of weeks before all schools would be reporting and giving us information.”

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Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 164581

Reported Deaths: 4143
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion26055792
Lake14436358
St. Joseph9606168
Elkhart9271138
Allen8647231
Hamilton6400115
Vanderburgh617162
Tippecanoe396715
Porter347550
Hendricks3418134
Monroe335638
Johnson3286130
Delaware311575
Clark306263
Vigo275340
Madison250896
LaPorte239261
Cass229724
Warrick205065
Kosciusko201127
Floyd187468
Howard169466
Bartholomew147958
Marshall147428
Dubois146426
Wayne142031
Grant133539
Henry133030
Boone129150
Hancock124744
Noble122935
Jackson121018
Dearborn103128
Morgan100340
Lawrence96838
Gibson94412
Clinton92416
Daviess92334
Shelby90632
LaGrange82815
Knox81810
Harrison81024
Posey7767
Putnam77616
Fayette76719
DeKalb76011
Jasper6885
Miami6715
Steuben6608
Montgomery63122
White62316
Greene57838
Adams5607
Scott55413
Decatur52839
Ripley4838
Whitley4836
Clay4617
Sullivan45714
Wells45611
Huntington4455
Starke4438
Wabash4439
Orange42425
Spencer4176
Randolph39210
Jennings38713
Washington3873
Franklin38325
Fulton3785
Perry36914
Jefferson3655
Pike35718
Carroll34313
Jay3386
Fountain3293
Tipton28423
Vermillion2721
Parke2564
Rush2464
Blackford2394
Newton23711
Owen2151
Martin2050
Pulaski1783
Crawford1631
Brown1473
Ohio1337
Union1140
Benton1130
Switzerland980
Warren911
Unassigned0236

COVID-19 Important links and resources

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