GFPS, CCHD won’t release COVID information by school; State to release cases by schools weekly
Cascade County has two new COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the county’s total to 483 and of those, 225 are active.
On Wednesday, the Cascade County City-County Health Department said there were 18 new cases, association with clusters, contact tracing and community spread. The previous day, there were 17 new cases.
CCHD said Sept. 16 that there are now 16 active cases associated with Great Falls Public Schools, but that number didn’t include any of Wednesday’s new cases.
The cases so far in GFPS include six females age 10-19; six males age 10-19; one male age 0-9 and three adults.
Both CCHD and GFPS have now said that they will show confirms cases associated with the district by age range and will not identify specific schools or the ages and sexes of the adults “as any of that information could potentially be personally identifiable information and violated the sick person’s privacy. HIPAA laws prevent the disclosure of that information.”
The state, however, is releasing the number of cases per county and naming individual schools if the student population there is more than 50.
To protect privacy, schools with 11-50 students will not have cases broken out by staff/student. Schools with 10 or
fewer students will not be listed on the table, but their counts will be included in the total, according to the state list.
During a Sept. 16 press conference, Gov. Steve Bullock said it was important to release the information to allow parents to make informed decisions about whether to send their children to school.
In tweets Wednesday afternoon, Montana Office of Public Instruction Superintendent Elsie Artnzen asked the governor to reverse the decision and only display aggregate data at the county level.
Earlier in September, the Washington Post reported that legal experts said universities cannot use privacy laws to withhold data on coronavirus outbreaks.
The Post reported that the ‘U.S. Department of Education in March released coronavirus guidelines for FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, saying that schools could share coronavirus data as long as it does not give out personal information of students. But given the current crisis, the department also advised schools that they could use an emergency exemption that applies to situations such as a school shooting, natural disaster or ‘the outbreak of an epidemic disease,’ according to the federal agency.”
The Post also reported that HIPAA laws apply to healthcare providers, not educators.
On Wednesday, CCHD released the details for that day’s 18 new cases:
- 2 females 19 and under
- 4 males 19 and under
- 1 female in her 20s
- 1 male in his 20s
- 4 males in their 30s
- 1 female in her 40s
- 1 male in his 40s
- 2 females in their 50s
- 1 male in his 50s
- 1 male in his 60s
- 2 females under 20
- 2 males under 20
- 4 females in their 20s
- 2 males in their 20s
- 1 female in her 30s
- 2 males in their 30s
- 2 males in their 40s
- 1 male in his 50s
- 1 male in his 60s
Statewide, the total is 9,647 and of those 2,103 are active. Statewide, there have been 143 COVID-19 related deaths, five of which were in Cascade County. There were 217 new cases statewide on Sept. 17.
Last week, Bullock released COVID-19 response protocols for schools and includes information on COVID-19 symptoms, when to call for emergency care, determining close contacts, when to quarantine, isolate, and recommend testing, and when to allow students and staff to return to school.
It also includes on guidance on when to involve local public health, how to screen symptomatic students and staff to determine if testing or isolation is appropriate, and guidance on athletics and extracurricular activities.
The guidance also includes protocols for quarantining, isolation, testing and when individuals can return to school.