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New Guidance for Schools to Report COVID-19; 342 New Cases in Ky., 23 in NKY

During Monday's update on COVID-19 in Kentucky, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, Department of Public Health (KDPH) Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack, and education officials offered new guidance on schools during the pandemic, including the announcement of an emergency regulation addressing how schools report positive coronavirus cases.

Under the new regulation, no later than Monday, Sept. 28, all parents and guardians are required to report to the child’s school within 24 hours if their child tests positive for COVID-19, and all schools must report via a secure website, Monday through Friday, every day that school is in session, data related to the coronavirus.

Stack said that the Kentucky Department of Education is sending instructions to schools on how to register with the online portal and report this data.

“Using this data, KDPH will publish an online dashboard,” Stack said. “The dashboard link will be posted on or before Monday, Sept. 28, on the website.

“Publicly reporting this data is a necessary tool to enable students, parents and communities to make informed decisions COVID-19 risk in collaboration with the education and public health communities.”

Dr. Stack said KDPH still will publish its K-12 public health reports, also available on the website.

In addition to reporting protocols, Stack provided updated guidance for schools on a variety of instructional modes.

“Superintendents have requested local control. They have asked us to give them a metric to decide,” Stack said. “This tool provides the metric and public health guidance attached to it.”

He said the guidance is in effect as long as the state’s positivity rate is less than 6% and the health care system has enough resources. A color-coded map showing incidence rates will provide districts with corresponding guidance. It will be updated every Thursday evening to guide schools for the following week.

As of Monday, the state's positivity rate is 4.17%.

Schools in green and yellow areas essentially follow KDE Healthy at Schools guidance. Schools in an orange zone should take enhanced measures, including more aggressive crowd limits, and should consider a variety of factors to determine what mode of instruction they should use.

If a county reaches red, then both in person instruction should be suspended the following week and only remote learning should occur; schools may still use small groups per KDE guidance for special circumstances.

“Let me be clear, that there is not going to be an overall recommendation coming from me or my office post Sept. 28,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “What’s going to be provided is the information to make a week-by-week decision in our various school districts and counties based on prevalence and what public health experts believe is the right course based on that prevalence.”

The governor had previously asked schools not to resume in-person learning until at least Sept. 28.

“Once a county reaches red, it should return to yellow before resuming in person instruction to allow for disease activity to return to a safer level and to increase the probability of successfully staying open for in person instruction upon reopening,” Stack explained.

In addition, Dr. Stack said the Kentucky High School Athletic Association has published and continues to update its guidance on COVID-19. He said the KDPH is collaborating with officials.

Dr. Lu Young, chair of the Kentucky Board of Education, was on hand Monday to support the new reporting process.

“This data about cases in schools is crucial to support families and to support our reopening efforts across the commonwealth. We all need to have a better understanding of the impact of this virus on our kids and school personnel as it plays out in real time,” Young said. “Equally importantly, we need to use this information to track what is actually happening in our schools and districts on a daily basis as this information may very well help us prevent dangerous outbreaks in our neighborhoods before they ever happen.”

“This week, I will be working with the Department of Public Health and KDE to hold town halls with superintendents to teachers and everyone in between," said Lt. Gov. Coleman, who also serves as secretary of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. "Our goals are to be transparent and communicative, ensure accountability and inclusion and allow every voice to be heard.”

Dr. Houston Barber, superintendent of the Frankfort Independent Schools District, praised the new information.

“As a father of four, I empathize with all Kentuckians about what school looks like today and how you’re navigating that course,” Dr. Barber said. “This tool that has been developed for K-12 is incredible. It allows for districts all across the state to work together with their local health officials and board teams and come up with a strategy that makes sense for their students, their families and their communities.”

Dr. M. Christopher Brown II, president of Kentucky State University, also spoke Monday in favor of the collaboration.

“Every call and request for information we’ve had to the Department of Public Health has been answered. The spirit of cooperation has been seamless and constant as we try to maneuver and respond to the changing dynamics of this pandemic,” Dr. Brown said. “We are excited that the Department of Public Health, in collaboration with CPE, will have a statewide list of all the campus dashboards. We are doing everything possible to give transparent and on time data to keep the public aware of what we are doing to keep our community safe.”

Monday's COVID-19 case information:

Gov. Beshear announced 342 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Kentucky on Monday, bringing the Commonwealth's total to 57,282 since the pandemic began.

Fifty-three of those new cases involved children aged 18 and younger.

The Northern Kentucky Health Department reported 23 new cases locally, bringing the four-county region's total to 4,132 since the pandemic began.

Beshear also took a moment to express his feelings about the way some speak about the deaths related to COVID-19 being primarily among the older population.

“If you’re a person – whether you’re in the state legislature or at home on your keyboard – that is saying, ‘Oh, but these people are older,’ shame on you. These are children of God, just like everyone else, who deserved more time on this planet,” the governor said. “Their life is just as important as everybody else’s. The moment that we desensitize ourselves to the fact that even a 90-something-year-old has more time with his or her family, grandkids, maybe great-grandkids, and COVID takes it from them – it’s not acceptable.”

Five additional deaths were reported on Monday, with the victims ranging in age from 49 to 82.

No local deaths were reported.

As of Monday, there have been at least 1,020,070 coronavirus tests performed in Kentucky. The positivity rate was 4.17%, and at least 10,918 Kentuckians have recovered from the virus.

-Staff report

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