The South Orange-Maplewood School District is reporting seven cases of COVID-19 among both virtual and hybrid/in-person students and staff for the week ending Friday, February 5, according to the district’s dashboard.
The district has reported a total of 22 cases since the reopening of in-person school on January 19.
The case break down by school is as follows:
Seth Boyden: 3
South Mountain: 1
The district has said that because of confidentiality and privacy concerns, it will not note on the dashboard which COVID-19 cases reported are among virtual students/staff, and which are among in-person or hybrid students/staff.
Asked last week for more information about the dashboard and how the district reports cases, district spokeswoman Anide Eustache sent the following statement to Village Green:
The dashboard is the result of a collaborative effort including the input of multiple health professionals. The major concern is confidentiality. With numbers so small personal confidentiality can become compromised very easily. We are balancing our commitment to publish COVID-19 cases to our community with our professional responsibility to maintain confidentiality.
In a health data surveillance memo, NJDOH Division of Epidemiology, Environmental and Occupational Health states: “If a school has fewer than 10 cases, in order to protect privacy, the exact number will be suppressed” (NJDOH, 2020). We have decided, then, that numbers less than 10 must be considered carefully before publishing. Therefore, adding further subsets, (i.e., virtual, teacher) leads to more identifiers of an individual’s confidential health information. Please be assured that:
1. The SOMA Departments of Health share and interpret data with the schools on a daily basis. Their guidance is based on case-by-case confidential investigation; then, epidemiological patterns are studied and acted upon before the number appears on the dashboard.
2. Close contacts and school communities that are impacted by an in-person COVID+ positive case will be notified by the district in a timely manner while maintaining confidentiality before the number appears on the dashboard.
We will continue to monitor our Dashboard and make any updates as necessary and within the scope of ensuring the confidentiality of those impacted while ensuring the safety of our students and staff.
Eustache said the district had updated its introductory summary below the dashboard header.
That summary reads: “The numbers reflect positive cases of both virtual and in-person staff and students. It is the responsibility of the staff member who tests COVID-19 positive, or the parent of the student who tests COVID-19 positive to notify the principal who notifies the superintendent. The local Department of Health (DOH) will be notified immediately. The local DOH conducts Contact Tracing. The local Department of Health provides the District with guidance as to the appropriate and timely notification of staff and families of a confirmed case while maintaining confidentiality.”
Eustache said the community should know that,”If a positive case impacted a school community by having been in-person, the school community would have received a school notification with guidance to remain vigilant. In addition, IF school individuals were identified as close contacts of a positive case in school, they would have gotten a separate notification with guidance to quarantine. All notifications maintain the confidentiality of the positive case. Most importantly, each number represents someone who may not feel well and we wish them a healthy recovery.”