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Schools should report COVID-19 cases

The Mississippi State Department Health has done a great job over the past several months in tracking and providing vital data on the state’s COVID-19 infection rates.

Knowing the numbers of new infection rates and deaths on a regular basis helps everyone understand the severity of the disease.

Case in point, Gov. Tate Reeves last week cited MSDH numbers in deciding to let a statewide mask mandate expire, saying the new infection rates had returned to a lower rate comparable to earlier in the year when more strict regulations were in place. The MSDH also has also been providing numbers of infections in the state’s schools since the beginning of the year.

So far, as of Sept. 29, Adams County has had only two schools report COVID-19 positive cases in students and teachers and those numbers, between one and five students both at Cathedral School and Frazier Elementary, have remained unchanged for a couple of weeks.

Despite the unchanged numbers, many people in the community know of other cases that have occurred at schools that have not been reported.

Turns out, schools are not required to report those numbers and only do so on a voluntary basis. Administrators at Cathedral and Natchez-Adams School District schools have been transparent about earlier infections in their schools. We do not, however, know if they have had more infections that they just are not reporting, and we do know that Adams County Christian School has had cases they are not reporting to the state.

Instead, ACCS is only reporting its COVID-19 numbers to the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools, which is not releasing those numbers to the state or the general public. That is their prerogative since no statute exists to make them do so.

However, schools not reporting their COVID infection rates is a disservice to the community and could contribute to more spreading of the disease.

If people look at the state numbers and think only one to five students in a given district have reported COVID-19 cases, when in fact many more have actually been infected, the public can be fooled into underestimating the problem. Therefore, do not take the state school numbers at face value. They are skewed until school districts step up and do the right thing by reporting accurate COVID-19 infection rates.

Otherwise, the MSDH might as well just quit reporting the numbers.