Capital Clicks

Iowa public health director: School districts can decide what COVID-19 data to report

By: - September 2, 2021 4:31 pm

The state is not reporting data on COVID-19 outbreaks in schools, state officials said Sept. 2, 2021. (Photo by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash)

It’s up to school districts to decide how to track and report COVID-19 outbreaks in schools, Iowa Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia said Thursday.

“School districts are reporting that information, and some school districts have made the decision not to provide that information,” Garcia said. “But I believe the vast majority are.”

Garcia said the public health department was working with local health officials to monitor outbreaks. A new state data dashboard will not include school-specific COVID-19 information.

Several major Iowa school districts launched their own COVID-19 dashboards when the fall semester began.

Des Moines Public Schools, the largest school district in the state, began classes just over a week ago. So far, 101 students and 48 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, according to district data.

DMPS School Board Chair Dwana Bradley wrote a letter to parents on the first day of school acknowledging COVID-19 concerns and urging students to wear masks.

“It is abundantly clear to the experts that when everyone wears a mask, we keep kids healthy and in school, and most importantly we save lives as we wait for the vaccine to become available to our children,” she wrote.

The Iowa City School District reported Thursday that 30 students and 11 staff members had tested positive, with more quarantining due to exposure. In Cedar Rapids, 20 students and 6 staff members tested positive.

School districts may not require students or staff to wear masks under Iowa law. Gov. Kim Reynolds repeated Thursday that parents should  decide whether their children wear masks.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.