Published 3:44 PM EDT Sep 9, 2020
The Tennessee Department of Education failed to release the number of active COVID-19 cases linked to the state’s schools Tuesday, despite an announcement about the release last week.
After weeks of flip-flopping, Gov. Bill Lee and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn announced on Thursday, Sept. 3 that the state would finally start publicly reporting confirmed COVID-19 cases linked to schools in a new dashboard.
The dashboard, announced at the governor’s press briefing, was supposed to be launched Tuesday and would include the total number of active cases among students and staff broken down by school across the state.
UPDATE: Tennessee Department of Education reports 756 new COVID-19 cases among students, staff
BY THE NUMBERS: These Tennessee school districts are already reporting COVID-19 cases after reopening
The education department said at the time that it will update the dashboard every Monday with the previous week’s number of new cases and the dashboard will include classroom or school closures and whether students are learning in-person, remotely or a hybrid of both for each district.
The Department of Education did not immediately respond to questions about the data release from The Tennessean, but Chief of Staff Chelsea Crawford issued a statement Tuesday evening.
“The anticipated launch of the Tennessee Department of Education dashboard tracking COVID-19 cases in schools has been delayed due to technical difficulties with processing data across a number of school districts. TDOE is working to rectify this technical issue with the intent to launch the COVID-19 case tracking dashboard before the end of the week,” Crawford said. “Full reporting across every district is expected by September 22 and we thank districts for their partnership in providing helpful data for educators, leaders and families.”
PREVIOUSLY: Tennessee Department of Education to start reporting the number of COVID-19 cases in schools weekly
Lee, Schwinn and state Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey have all been criticized for not publicly reporting information on COVID-19 cases in schools. All have previously cited federal privacy law restrictions, like HIPAA and FERPA, for preventing the release of the information.
Lee released the state’s school reopening guidance on July 28 — days after some Tennessee school districts had already reopened. Initially, he and Piercey said that neither the education or health departments would be tracking or reporting COVID-19 cases in schools. He later announced that the state would work on a plan for reporting such data.
Just a week later, Lee reversed course again and said the state would not release the data. After that, Lee said the state was contacting federal officials about what it could release.
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IN SCHOOLS: Report cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee schools to The Tennessean
Nearly 200 COVID-19 cases linked to schools have been reported across the state since the first school districts in Tennessee reopened in late July, many prompting quarantines of students and staff and even temporary school closures.
Dozens of school districts scrambled to launch their own online dashboards or other methods to report the number of positive cases among staff and students, how many individuals were in isolation or quarantine and school closures.
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Meghan Mangrum covers education in Nashville for the USA TODAY NETWORK — Tennessee. Contact her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.