Alabama statewide school COVID tracker to debut Oct. 30; Here’s how it works

Alabamians anxious to get a look at the prevalence of COVID-19 among students, teachers, and staff in schools statewide will get their chance on Friday.

The dashboard, in the works since late August, will be published on the Alabama Department of Public Health website and will include the number of self-reported positive COVID-19 cases in each school system, but will not be broken down by school.

After discussion between Alabama State Department of Education officials during a Monday afternoon training session for school nurses about whether to report only laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases or whether to report all known self-reported positives among students and faculty, Alabama State Superintendent Eric Mackey told AL.com the school tracker will follow the same reporting protocol school nurses follow now on the ADPH report card.

“The (Alabama Department of Public Health) school dashboard will use the same protocols for reporting as the ADPH report card,” Mackey wrote to AL.com.

Currently, the ADPH report card—the mechanism through which school nurses report positive cases to ADPH for contact tracing—does not require laboratory confirmation of positive cases.

Schools currently rely on parents and staff to report positive cases of COVID-19, but schools are not required to collect laboratory results before reporting a positive case.

K-12 schools have not appeared to be the source of community spread of coronavirus, something many feared prior to the opening of schools in August. The school tracker, Mackey said earlier this month, is important for two reasons, Mackey said: “So people take it seriously, and so they don’t overreact.”

“We want to be fully transparent so that people know that there are cases in the community,” Mackey said. Knowing the level of spread, he added, helps people to continue to do the things needed to mitigate that spread.

The school tracker will include positive cases for the week ending each Tuesday evening, officials said. State department of education nurses will review the data, and it will be published online by 10 a.m. each Friday morning.

A school district’s lead nurse is the only school official who can complete the school tracker report for the district, and while student and faculty cases will be reported separately, only a total will be reported to the public. Five cases or fewer will not be reported by number for privacy reasons, officials said.

While there is no national template or standard for reporting cases in schools, some states provide a more detailed breakdown than Alabama is planning to report.

Florida reports positive cases by school and whether the person is a student, teacher, or other staff member. Their report also includes whether persons were showing symptoms. Louisiana reports cases weekly but only by parish, or county. Utah breaks case data down into three age groups, 5 to 10 years old, 11 to 13 years old and 14 to 18 years old.

For its school reporting dashboard, New York’s public health department not only relies on self-reporting, but also uses official lab results, matching the lab results to the

Read more

Kansas governor calls for help with statewide mask mandate

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is again calling for a statewide mask mandate as the coronavirus case count continues to climb in rural parts of the state that don’t require them.

Kelly said Wednesday that two-thirds of the state’s COVID-19 cases are now coming from outside the Wichita and Kansas City region. Over the summer, she issued an order requiring Kansas residents to wear masks, but more than 90 counties chose to opt out. She said she now plans to speak with House and Senate leadership to work toward a bipartisan requirement with more teeth.

“We cannot sit by as the cases continue to rise in our rural communities, threatening lives and businesses,” she said.


Her announcement came after the state health department reported that Kansas had 1,488 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases since Monday, bringing the total number of infections reported in the state to 74,456. That pushed the rolling seven-day average for new cases to another record of 757. The department also reported 80 additional COVID-19-related deaths, most of them stemming from a review of death certificates, bringing the state’s fatality toll to 952.

According to data from The COVID Tracking Project, the seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Kansas has risen over the past two weeks from 15% on Oct. 6 to 19.4% on Tuesday. Only four other states are faring worse.

On Monday, the health department in rural Norton County reported a coronavirus outbreak killed 10 residents in a nursing home in northwestern Kansas. It said all 62 residents and an unspecified number of employees at the Andbe Home in Norton had tested positive for the virus.

“For months, many have mistakenly shared the idea that this virus would never reach our rural and lower population communities. Now it is worse in those towns and counties than it is in in our cities,” she said. “Harmful anti-mask and anti-science rhetoric has politicized our ability to tackle a public health issue, much of it coming from our elected officials.”

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a Republican from Overland Park, said in a statement shared by a spokesman that he had not been contacted by the governor’s office to discuss a statewide mask mandate yet but is “happy to talk and discuss a mask mandate because it is better than a business shutdown, which he doesn’t want to talk about.” Denning added that he wants the discussions to include a statewide testing plan that is “crucial to dealing with the virus.”

Meanwhile, a 45-page plan that Kansas filed in the past week with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that health care workers and long-term care residents will be among those who will get the coronavirus vaccine first. Other groups that will be prioritized for the initial rounds of vaccinations include people with underlying medical conditions, people 65 and older and essential workers.

Phil Griffin, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment bureau director for disease control and prevention,

Read more

Kansas gov. again urges statewide mask mandate

MISSION, Kan. — Kansas Gov. Laura is again calling for a statewide mask mandate as coronavirus infections climb in rural parts of the state that don’t require face covering.

Kelly said Wednesday that two-thirds of the state’s confirmed cases now are outside the Wichita and Kansas City region.

Over the summer, the governor issued an order requiring Kansas residents to wear masks, but more than 90 counties chose to opt out. Kelly says she plans to discuss with legislative leaders on working toward a bipartisan requirement with more teeth.

The state health department says Kansas had 1,488 new confirmed coronavirus cases since Monday, an increase of 2% that brought the total number of infections for the pandemic to 74,456. Kansas has had 952 deaths from COVID-19.

___


HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Spain reaches 1 million cases of coronavirus

— North Dakota Republican governor calls National Guard to help with test results

— CDC redefines coronavirus close contact, adds brief encounters

— Next up in hunt for COVID-19 vaccine: Testing shots in kids. Pfizer received permission last week to test its vaccine in U.S. kids as young as 12.

— Boston schools will switch to all-remote learning in response to rising coronavirus cases in the city.

— Brazil President overrules own health minister, rejecting purchase of 46 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine tested in Sao Paulo state.

___

Follow all of AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s lieutenant governor, who has called the state face mask order a government overstep during the pandemic, says he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said Wednesday that so far, he has no symptoms. He said he took the test earlier in the day after being notified that a member of his Sunday school group had been infected.

Ainsworth has criticized mandatory mask orders, but he personally wears one. He says that “because I follow social distancing rules and wear a mask both in church and in my daily interactions, the positive result shows that even those of us who are the most cautious can be at risk.”

Data show coronavirus virus infections appear to be rising in Alabama again weeks of improvement.

___

SANTA FE, N.M. — Health officials in New Mexico have reported a single-day record of 827 newly confirmed coronavirus cases.

The increase reported Wednesday raised the state’s total of confirmed cases during the pandemic to 38,715. There have been 950 deaths linked to COVID.19.

New Mexico’s previous one-day high for new coronavirus infections was 819 reported Friday.

___

BEAVER, Pa. — A large, for-profit Pennsylvania nursing home where dozens of residents died of COVID-19 has been sued over allegations that it failed to take basic steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Beaver County near the Ohio border was among the hardest-hit nursing homes in the state. It had

Read more
  • Partner links