Georgia health department stops weekly COVID-19 reporting for schools

The Georgia Department of Public Health dropped a requirement for school systems to submit weekly COVID-19 case counts.  AJC FILE PHOTO



The Georgia Department of Public Health dropped a requirement for school systems to submit weekly COVID-19 case counts. AJC FILE PHOTO

Georgia school districts are no longer required to submit a weekly aggregated report of COVID-19 case numbers to state health officials, marking an end to a practice that began a year and a half ago.

In August, 2020, the Georgia Department of Public Health began requiring schools to submit a weekly snapshot of COVID-19 case counts in their schools. The data was used to monitor the disease’s spread on campuses and to help identify prevention measures.

The health department dropped the weekly reporting requirement as of Feb. 25, spokeswoman Nancy Nydam confirmed in a Friday email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She said the agency “is no longer collecting weekly aggregate level data.”

The aggregate data included totals of COVID-19 cases by week and by school.

“This is due to having moved to another phase of the COVID pandemic, i.e., improvements in infections, hospitalizations, death rates and outbreaks in recent weeks,” she wrote.

Nydam said schools still must report COVID-19 cases and clusters according to the state requirements for notifiable diseases: “Just like any other infectious disease such as measles.”

Though state officials had said that the COVID-19 school reports were exempt from public release, many metro Atlanta districts voluntarily posted their numbers each week. Since last August, 14 area districts have recorded more than 75,000 coronavirus cases.

Now that the state has dropped the reporting requirement, Fulton County Schools has stopped publishing weekly staff and student case counts on its website.

The state’s decision “was the major impetus for our suspension of creating the weekly report and publication,” said Fulton spokesman Brian Noyes in an email.

He said the change was part of a “de-escalation of our steps” in response to waning COVID-19 case counts. The district also lifted its mask mandate in mid-January.

The last report Fulton posted online was for the week ending Feb. 24. That week, the district reported 133 COVID-19 cases among students and staff, its lowest count of this semester. Since August, the district had recorded more than 9,000 COVID-19 cases.

A spokeswoman for Douglas County School System said Friday that the district is no longer publishing COVID-19 cases. It had been reporting cases weekly.

Most metro Atlanta districts have continued to publish weekly reports in recent weeks, including Atlanta, Cherokee County, DeKalb, Clayton, Cobb County, city of Decatur and Gwinnett County.