Pandemic team launches COVID-19 dashboard

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By Zakiyah Gaziuddin and Amna Faheem, News Editor and Staff Reporter

With the launch of hybrid learning in the week of Oct. 12, the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District created a COVID-19 dashboard to better inform students, their families, and staff about reported positive cases within the district’s buildings. 

Pandemic Coordinator, Chris Groppe, who is part of TESD’s pandemic team created to organize reopening plans, along with other members decided to create a dashboard to help families make decisions about whether they wanted their children to attend school by providing information about how and at what rate the virus was being transmitted. 

“To kind of thread that needle, we came upon the idea of a dashboard that is being updated daily. That way, a parent or anybody can really check it each day to see if there’s any additional cases or not within the buildings.” Groppe said. 

Cases that show up over the weekend would be reported on the next week’s dashboard report.

In accordance with individuals’ Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rights, cases are reported numerically and individuals’ names are kept private.

“We realized pretty early on that we had to strike a balance in any communication because you have to protect the individual health, privacy, and confidentiality rights of any staff member and any student with providing information to people in the community, particularly families,” Groppe said.

For now, the dashboard is updated with positive cases amongst district employees and contracted staff members that are in the building, students attending in-person classes, and/or students participating in sports. As the year progresses, however, the team anticipates that some students will attend extracurricular activities in-person. Cases of students who attend extracurricular activities but attend school all virtual would also be reported on the dashboard.

The district has also implemented daily symptom screeners for students attending in-person learning. Before entering the building, everyone must answer a series of questions to ensure they’re free of any  COVID-19 symptoms. Based on the answers, a screen colored red or green will show up on Powerschool which must be presented to enter the building. 

Christine O’Connell, one of the nurses at Conestoga who assists in keeping track of infection rates and students exhibiting symptoms, notes how diligent individuals have been with completing the daily screeners. 

“We have been fortunate in the district, I think that’s a statement to how well everybody’s doing this symptom screening, and just really being cognizant of their community and not taking any chances.” O’Connell said.  

Students and staff who are symptomatic must be quarantined for 10 days until and unless they present a test that’s negative. When school nurses are informed about a student exhibiting symptoms or testing positive, they begin contact tracing 40 hours for when symptoms arise and 48 hours for when a positive test is reported. School nurses are also in constant contact with the pandemic team and alert them whenever a positive case is reported. 

“One of the most intricate parts of this is the level of detail about the cases counts a great deal towards what the responses are,” Groppe said. “There’s general guides in terms of what the responses will be but the facts and the details of each individual case matter in terms of if somebody is quarantining, if they’re able to return to school, if they need to continue to quarantine and what happens.”

The district also works closely with the Chester County Health Department (CCHD) who assist individuals in navigating their next steps after receiving a positive case and are also responsible for contact tracing. Contact tracing is a process of identifying individuals who may have come into contact with infected individuals. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the process is crucial to slowing the spread of the virus as people in close contact with individuals who’ve tested positive are at a higher risk of getting infected themselves. 

The district assists the CCHD’s contact tracing efforts in identifying persons who individuals that tested positive came into contact by identifying students in their classes and, in the case that the student rides the bus, who they sat near.

So far, the distinct has reported minimal cases on the dashboard, with the current highest reported number being 5 cases in the week of  Nov. 2.

“I’m grateful that the community is really taking this seriously. I really do believe that people are erring on the side of caution. And I think that that has led to very minimal issues in the district,” O’Connell said. “So I would just like to commend and applaud the community for doing such a great job of it.”