On March 15, when the Madison Metropolitan School District shuttered buildings and sent students home, Dane County had eight cases of COVID-19. On Dec. 17, when MMSD superintendent Carlton Jenkins hosted a forum via Zoom to discuss reopening our schools, the county had over 3,000 positive cases this month alone. Nevertheless, MMSD argues that it is safe for kids to return to school in January.
As parents of four MMSD students, we wonder: Why is it safe now, at the height of the pandemic and cold and flu season, for students to go back to school? Just last month, an East High School student lost his life to COVID-19. How many more students and teachers will join him if schools open their doors? How many sick children and staff are acceptable to Dr. Jenkins and MMSD administration?
Why open schools now when hospitals are reaching capacity? And how many students and teachers are the district willing to sacrifice?
Why open schools now without funding from the federal government to provide PPE, hazard pay for teachers, enhanced broadband capabilities, and adequate COVID-19 testing? Why open now when half of all Dane County residents with COVID-19 don’t know where they contracted the illness? Why now when children have been home for nine months and a vaccine is imminent?
If we were going to ignore science and metrics and pack students into crowded classrooms, why didn’t we do that in April? Why, when MMSD administration has to discuss reopening schools over Zoom because it’s not safe to meet in person, would we open schools now?
Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled
Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees).
which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.
While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state.
The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.
The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.
“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”
Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.
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