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Health Department Launches 'Early Warning System' For COVID-19 In Louisiana Schools

Aubri Juhasz
A temperature checkpoint at Dwight D. Eisenhower Charter School in Algiers. A limited number of students are attending the school's learning hub while regular in-person operations are suspended.

Schools are now required to report known and suspected cases of COVID-19 to the Louisiana Department of Health as part of an “early warning system,” according to an emergency order from State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry.

“This system was created to aid schools and public health officials in monitoring and mitigating the potential for school-based outbreaks,” the order reads.

State officials have long acknowledged that when students and staff return to the classroom, some will inevitably test positive for the coronavirus.

While some students have been back in school for weeks, and positive cases of the virus have already been reported, many more will be returning over the next month.

Jefferson Parish public schools, the state’s largest district, started the school year in-person on Monday, and New Orleans public schools plans to bring its youngest students back to the classroom in mid-September.

Using a password-protected webportal, schools are expected to log all positive COVID-19 cases among students, faculty and staff. The order was issued Tuesday and applies to all public, private and charter schools that serve students in PreK through 12th grade.

The reporting system was developed by the Department of Health and and the Department of Education, but will be maintained solely by LDH. According to additional guidance, protected health information, including name, date of birth and address will not be shared with LDOE under any circumstances.

“Schools already share much of this information with LDH, though not in a systematic way,” the guidance reads. “This system will help streamline the process, minimizing reporting burden for schools and giving health officials the awareness to help quickly when needed.”

The guidance also highlights the essential role parents play in ensuring the system is accurate: “Parent participation in providing COVID information to your child’s school is vital to protect your child and help lessen the spread of COVID in your school and the community.”

It goes on to state that maintaining an accurate database will be “critical for school based contact tracing and guiding schools in decision-making.”

The guidance does not state whether the information will be available to the general public.

Aubri Juhasz covers K-12 education, focusing on charter schools, education funding, and other statewide issues. She also helps edit the station’s audio stories.

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