Wisconsin officials won’t name schools that have COVID-19 outbreaks, or say how big they are

Madeline Heim, Annysa Johnson and Samantha West:

As hundreds of thousands of students return to classrooms across Wisconsin, the state has no plans to publicize details about COVID-19 outbreaks when they occur at schools.

Freedom of information advocates say that information should be available to the broader public, and some researchers say data could help schools learn from one another. But others worry about protecting students, parents and communities from stigma if information about outbreaks is shared widely. 

Without a state-level source of information, what you know about outbreaks in your schools may depend on the openness of local school districts and health departments.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services confirmed last week it will publish only the number of schools in the state with COVID-19 investigations, which launch when as few as two cases are identified in a given space. The department doesn’t plan to name the schools or describe the severity of the outbreaks.