MSDH: Organization representing state’s private schools missed deadline to report COVID-19 cases

Health officials expect MAIS to provide data soon
Updated: Sep. 2, 2020 at 10:28 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Cases of coronavirus spreading in some of Mississippi’s private schools are not being counted in the Mississippi State Department of Health’s county-by-county tallies this week because an organization representing those schools failed to submit the data to the state agency in time, the state’s health officer said Wednesday.

Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Wednesday that some of the state’s private schools submit their information on positive cases and quarantined staff to the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools, headquartered in Pearl, instead of sending it directly to MSDH.

“Many of the private schools are sending them directly to us. Many of them wanted to send it through the MAIS as their broker of information. We don’t have that updated information from MAIS yet,” Dobbs said. “We should have it shortly. We did get it last week.”

MSDH’s health order states schools must submit COVID-19 case information for teachers, staff and students by Monday at noon each week.

Dobbs’ answer came after a question about whether Tunica Academy, a private school in Tunica County, had failed to report its cases to the state agency as required by health order.

3 On Your Side obtained a letter sent to parents from administrators at Tunica Academy, which notified them that twelve teachers, staff and students had tested positive for coronavirus as of August 18.

This week’s tally of more than 750 schools statewide, posted on MSDH’s website Tuesday, listed no cumulative cases for Tunica County, despite showing them the week before.

3 On Your Side reached out to MAIS about inconsistencies with private schools reporting, but the organization’s executive director, Shane Blanton, did not respond to a request for comment.

Gov. Tate Reeves said reporting errors and inconsistencies that may not match week to week will happen, given the level of data entry required.

“It’s not something that I personally am concerned about. Are we going to get exactly accurate numbers every single week from every single school? Is there gonna be a transmission error or is somebody going to make a mistake?” Reeves asked. “Of course there is. We know that. But it’s not gonna be for a lack of effort. And we’ve certainly seen that so far. Schools across the state are interested in protecting their teachers, protecting their students just like we are.”

More than 1,200 teachers, staff members and students have already contracted COVID-19 since school began last month, a 43 percent increase over last week.

When talking about the number of those quarantined in 71 counties, over 4,200 teachers and students are monitoring themselves for symptoms across the state. Dobbs acknowledged that the reporting process may be difficult for schools to handle.

Data from MSDH shows 753 schools submitted information this week out of more than 1,100.

“This is all the start of an evolving process. We’re kind of working out the kinks,” Dobbs said.

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