September 18, 2020

Mississippi schools not required to report COVID-19 outbreaks, state says

A Mississippi school district that has seen a handful of coronavirus cases among students since reopening for in-person classes last week is doing a good job of being transparent with the public, the governor and the state’s top health official said Wednesday.

The Corinth School District has reported seven cases since July 27. More than 100 students are quarantined, according to State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. He described the district as a “model” of how school districts should respond to the pandemic. The district has been posting daily updates on its Facebook page after receiving positive test results.

However, Dobbs and Reeves said during a news conference that the state has no requirement for districts to release information to the public when schools have outbreaks.

“I commend Corinth and their leadership for doing that. They aren’t trying to hide anything. They’re being very transparent,” Reeves said.

He said there’s no “specific guideline” for how schools should report coronavirus outbreaks. All school districts should make positive test results public, but it’s up to them to do so, Reeves said.

The state Department of Health is working on releasing data of outbreaks in schools by county, which would appear on its website with other daily coronavirus information, Dobbs said. However, he did not say whether that data would be organized district by district.

“We are starting to see more and more positive cases in schools, as they’ve opened up,” Dobbs said.

The seven-day rolling average of the coronavirus positivity rate in Mississippi has risen over the past two weeks from 17.7% on July 21 to 25.8% on Tuesday, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer organization that collects coronavirus testing data in the United States. Mississippi has one of the highest positivity rates in the country.

The state Health Department said Wednesday that Mississippi, which has a population of about 3 million, has had at least 63,444 reported cases and at least 1,804 deaths from COVID-19 as of Tuesday evening. That’s an increase of 1,245 confirmed cases and 51 deaths from numbers reported the day before.

The true number of virus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe or fatal illness