MDHHS orders schools to post data on coronavirus cases

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued an emergency order requiring school districts to let the public know about coronavirus cases in schools.

The epidemic order from MDHHS Director Robert Gordon requires local health departments to provide the information on both probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases at schools to the districts, which must then post that information within 24 hours at a highly visible location on the district’s website.

The order also encourages schools to post information on the steps they are taking to prevent transmission and measures individuals can take to limit the spread of the virus.

The Kent County Intermediate School District says that for weeks, it has been collecting much of the data now required by the order. That information for all 24 schools within the ISD is being posted on an online dashboard created in partnership with the Kent County Health Department, broken down by district, school and building.

“There’s a link on every local district’s web page where they have been reporting the positive cases, as well as those that have been in quarantine and the close contacts,” KISD Superintendent Ron Caniff said. “We take a look at it on Friday, just to reconcile, to say if there’s a discrepancy between what a local district has shared with the health department and what the health department is reporting — one way or the other, to try to answer those questions — and then post it on Monday.”

The main difference between what the state requires and what the ISD is reporting is the timing. The ISD will need to adjust to reporting every 24 hours as opposed to the current weekly updates.

“We get the information once a week from the health department and so that will be the other provision, in terms of daily, or within 24 hours,” Caniff said.

Kent County Health Department officials say they don’t see a problem with turning around the numbers every 24 hours.

“The last thing we want to do is not share information,” Caniff said. “We want parents to be able to look at the same information that we’re looking at as school leaders, as we’re trying to wrestle with this pandemic and make decisions.”