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Amid an unprecedented COVID-19 surge that has even infected the governor, the West Virginia Department of Education has stopped reporting the number of COVID-19 cases from outbreaks at specific K-12 schools.

Also, West Virginia University no longer is reporting the number of students or employees testing positive or in quarantine.

April Kaull, spokeswoman for the state’s largest university, wrote in an email that, “given that our testing strategy both as a university and a state has changed (as well as CDC guidance) and the significant amount of in-home testing we have going on, we thought it would potentially paint an inaccurate picture to show daily testing metrics.”

“Both ways — it could be missing positive and negative results that skew the data in ways that are not helpful,” she wrote.

As for the lack of statewide K-12 case reporting, a temporary technical issue is partly to blame, said Allison Adler. She’s the spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, to which the education department referred questions.

Adler wrote in an email that her department “transitioned to a new outbreak reporting system January 1, 2022 and the reports generated from the system are still being tweaked into a format previously used by West Virginia Department of Education to publish this data.”

She also wrote that the K-12 case data reporting method will change Jan. 24 to be more “robust” and allow her department to “monitor percent positivity by school and county.” She didn’t answer follow-up questions.

These current reductions in reporting — intended to be permanent for WVU, perhaps temporary for K-12 schools — come as the state is seeing record high numbers of new daily cases. Each week, the pandemic-high record is broken.

West Virginia never required routine COVID-19 testing in schools, so the full number of cases has been unknown.

From around the start of last school year through last month, the education department’s website had listed each school with a COVID-19 “outbreak” and how many cases had stemmed from that outbreak.

The site showed hundreds of cases in schools throughout the state. Some school outbreaks just infected a few people; some infected dozens.

Never did the site break down how many students were infected compared to employees — it reported only the total. It also never reported quarantine numbers.

Now, the site just shows whether there’s an outbreak at a school, not the extent of it.

There were outbreaks at 27 schools as of Friday evening, the site reported. Five schools are closed over a lack of staffing, it reported: Kanawha County’s Bridgeview and Kanawha City elementaries and three schools in Wetzel County.

The state had been defining an outbreak as two or more confirmed cases among students or staff from separate households within 14 days and within a single classroom or core group. That definition eventually changed, including by broadening to include simply “at least three cases within a specified core group [e.g., classroom, extracurricular activity, sports team].”

County school systems may continue to report cases on their own, if they choose.

As of Friday evening, Kanawha County, which has about 24,320 students and reports all cases, even if they’re not related to in-school spread, was reporting about 570 cases among students and staff.

Ryan Quinn covers education. He can be reached at 304-348-1254 or Follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

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