Blaming a lack of consistent data, Gov. Jim Justice and members of his administration have stopped reporting COVID-19 cases detected at public schools — the very places an entire mapping system has been designed to judge when in-person classes can be conducted.
Justice was reporting these incidents earlier this month, and had pledged to continue to do so — as he should. Parents, students, teachers and service personnel have a right to know if there is a COVID-19 case or outbreak at their school, given how easily the virus spreads and that, lacking mass testing, many do not know they have it unless they become symptomatic, and could have spread it to others without knowing.
The decision not to disclose this information is another strike against an administration that had handled the pandemic rather well for a long time, but now seems to be making exceptions left and right and ignoring or minimizing important data. The motivation may be political. Gov. Justice knows it looks better and more people are likely happy if kids are back in physical classrooms before Nov. 3, even though COVID-19 numbers are getting worse in the state and reopening schools in some areas will substantially exacerbate the public health risk.
Members of the administration said Wednesday that they don’t know if a positive test result is from a school, and that county health departments and local school boards should be the source of that information. Yet, the state had the information before, and was reporting it.
Gov. Justice and his administrators have been making frequent changes to how cases are counted, how those numbers are used to determine whether in-person classes can resume in some areas, and whether the same metrics apply to private schools. Now, they’ve stopped reporting when those cases are detected in the schools themselves.
It’s hard to have any faith in what the Justice administration is relaying to the public when the standards keep changing and not all of the information is presented. Gov. Justice needs to take a step back and reevaluate what he has promised in terms of transparency and considering public health above all other concerns. Reporting COVID-19 cases in schools should be an absolute priority.