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Are school coronavirus dashboards accurate?

Posted at 6:13 AM, Dec 09, 2020

Chandler Unified School District was one of the first to create a COVID-19 dashboard. Since its initial roll-out in August, the dashboard has added and changed information.

Among the changes includes moving cases from the active status to the recovered status.

Larry Rother, the assistant superintendent said " we wanted to clarify what an active case was and how an active case gets put onto our dashboard."

Other districts like Gilbert and Higley Unified have followed suit.

"I think intelligent people put them together hoping that they would be able to minimize the shock level to parents. If parents knew how many people were really getting infected, how would parents and teachers react? "says Mike Norton.

Mike Norton is with the Athena Foundation of Scottsdale. He's been tracking COVID-19 county data specifically in the 13- to 18-year-old range. He cites an example from last week.

"Higley, Queen Creek, Gilbert, and Chandler. Between all of those schools put together, they (districts) are only taking credit for 100 infections," he adds. Norton says county data indicates hundreds more should be there.

"There are 565 that were reported just last week that should have shown up on the dashboards last week. So... 465 who can't be found. The system fails to report the infections," he adds.

How districts choose to count active cases could play a role in the discrepancy. Chandler Unified says their dashboard's active cases include only those who have tested positive, have notified the school, and have been on campus while considered symptomatic.

"So if that student wasn't on campus the 48 hours prior to the first onset of symptoms... they wouldn't be on our dashboard," says Rother.

How districts count COVID cases matters because districts use data from their own dashboards to justify staying in person or going virtual. ABC15 has heard from parents as well as teachers about Chandler's COVID dashboard.

One teacher who wishes to remain anonymous said: "As a parent and a teacher, I am appalled at the district's blatant disregard of scientific guidelines as well as the board reneging on the promise they made to us when we went back in-person. At that point, they clearly stated that we would close if one metric went red; now administration and the board have gone rogue and made up new rules, endangering all of us."

Norton added, "The teachers are put in a position where if they object because of what they know is happening is not being reported and they feel unsafe, then suddenly the teachers are vilified."