Vermont no longer collects Covid school data

Christine Soychak, who works at the local high school, performs a rapid covid-19 antigen test on student Silas Gooding, 10, at the Enosburgh Public Safety Building on Friday, December 17, 2021. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Vermont state officials no longer collect or publish the number of Covid-19 cases detected in schools.

In response to questions from VTDigger, Health Department spokesman Ben Truman confirmed on Tuesday that the state would no longer maintain its listing of these cases, which was previously updated weekly.

The data was last updated on January 10.

The change comes as the National Education Agency urges schools to switch to a new model of Covid testing, called “home testing”, in which parents will be responsible for testing their children for Covid-19.

“With the move to home testing, schools are no longer doing contact tracing,” Truman said in an email. “This means we will not have data on cases that were in a K-12 learning community location while infectious.”

Vermont will begin publishing a “pediatric case data sheet,said Truman, who would break down Covid cases by age group, but not by school or district. Health department officials are already reporting pediatric case data, and the record is “based on our case data,” according to another health department spokeswoman, Katie Warchut.

The change in data collection protocols is part of a major shift in how Vermont schools handle Covid cases.

Previously, the state recommended a program called “test to stay,” in which school officials administered rapid tests to students before class and reported positive Covid cases to the state.

Health department officials used the data to publish a list of all school-reported Covid infections.

But that data often lagged behind the numbers recorded by local school staff.

And, with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, officials expected the numbers to “lose some currency,” Education Secretary Dan French told a news conference last month. .

Now it will be up to parents to test their children for Covid-19 and report positives to the state using a online form.

Just two weeks ago, French said state officials had yet to figure out how best to handle Covid data in schools, given the new guidelines. But at a press conference on January 11, French said the expected shift in focus would have a significant impact on the collection of those numbers.

“We will lose control of this data in exchange for having tests more widely distributed to the public,” he said.

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