DHEC alters way it reports COVID-19 cases in K-12 schools

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 6:10 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) - South Carolina’s public health agency is changing how it reports COVID-19 cases associated with students and school staff.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control announced Wednesday it will be archiving its current school cases dashboard in favor of a new, weekly report for K-12 schools, drawn from the numbers reported directly from those schools.

“Previously, DHEC had been reporting COVID-19 cases in schools using our own data from case investigations,” assistant state epidemiologist Dr. Jane Kelly said Wednesday during a media briefing.

DHEC’s previous dashboard for students and staff was updated on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The new report will include the number of students and staff who are isolated (tested positive for COVID-19) and the number of those quarantined (close contacts to those cases). It will also include the cumulative total since the start of the school year.

“Isolation and quarantine numbers provided directly from the schools shows a better real-time picture of showing how COVID is impacting our schools,” Kelly explained as part of the reasoning for the change. “This will eliminate any confusion that might result between their case numbers and DHEC’s case numbers, due to differing methods of identifying cases.”

DHEC’s new weekly COVID case report will continue to include public, private and charter schools. In a press release, the department said schools will have to report their quarantine and isolation information on Tuesdays in order for it to be present the next day in the weekly report. If a school does not report its information on time, it will be listed as “NR”.

DHEC said the new weekly tool could mean the data provided is incomplete at first. DHEC’s director of public health said in the press release that people should reach out and encourage their schools to participate if they find that their data isn’t included on the state’s website.

The health agency also provided its weekly update on Wednesday highlighting cases among vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

Among the 122,746 cases seen in August whose vaccination status could be identified, 85.2% of cases, 71% of hospitalizations, and 75% of deaths were among those not fully vaccinated, Kelly said.

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