Nearly 2,400 students, teachers and other school employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since the new school year started this fall, according to new data from the Indiana State Department of Health.
The state made public a dashboard of school-related coronavirus data for the first time Wednesday, more than two months after the first districts started their school years. The dashboard wasn’t published until Wednesday evening, but Dr. Kristina Box, the state’s health commissioner, gave a preview of the data during the state’s weekly coronavirus briefing Wednesday afternoon.
“We expect to continue to gather and refine this data in the coming weeks, so today’s dashboard should not be seen as a comprehensive overview of cases,” Box said.
Box said the state is still working with schools to get data submitted and remove duplicate records. According to the snapshot of the data, about half of the state’s schools submitted information this week, but some of those not reporting may be duplicates. Participation in the dashboard is not mandatory – at least not yet. Box has said the state would consider a mandate if schools did not participate willingly.
Based on the preliminary data posted Wednesday night, it looked like many of the schools that hadn’t yet reported data were private.
Of those that have submitted data, 617 schools have reported no cases and 742 schools have reported one or more cases. Students make up the majority of the reported cases, with 1,676 cases since the start of the current school year. Another 335 cases have been reported among the state’s teachers and 343 cases in other staff members.
Those numbers include 253 new student cases reported last week, 52 new teacher cases and 71 new staff cases.
The state serves about 1.1 million students in grades K-12. It’s unclear how many of those are represented by the schools that have reported data so far. The state reported last week that 94% of schools are now offering at least some degree of in-person instruction.
More than 40 districts started the year virtually, but some have started to bring students back into classrooms as numbers of new cases and positivity rates have declined over the last month in many communities.
In Marion County, Indianapolis Public Schools and Washington Township Schools are still operating remotely, but recently announced plans to return to in-person instruction next month.
Most districts across the state are continuing to offer a virtual option for those students and families that want it. In many Central Indiana districts, the share of students choosing the virtual option ranges between 10% and 30%.
The dashboard data is expected to be made available by school and searchable, though schools reporting fewer than five positive cases will have their data suppressed to protect privacy.
This story will be updated.