Some members of the Greenville Public School District Board of Trustees found themselves less than at ease after a COVID-19 report presented by Nurse Joyce Little.
Little’s report was given at the GPSD Board of Trustees’ regular Tuesday meeting and the most pressing concern seemed to be the disadvantage of not knowing where GPSD students fall in terms of the number of confirmed positive virus cases in Washington County.
Found to be even more unsettling for some members is the number of students who may be asymptomatic and not know it, thus exacerbating the spread of the virus.
Little said from Aug. 17 to Aug. 31, which marked the first two weeks of school, the district had 11 positive cases of COVID-19 among the staff, adding, “Which is almost half of what we had for the whole month of June and July.”
From the beginning to the middle of September, Little reported two positive cases with one more reported this week among GPSD staff.
As it pertains to the number confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Washington County, Little informed the board that it is currently not a hot spot as deemed by the Mississippi State Department of Health, but were just four cases shy of becoming one.
GPSD Board President Doris Thompson asked if those numbers could be related to the district.
“Not directly,” Little said. “You cannot track the numbers to a specific spot without coming to the city, and you cannot get that information at all.”
Little continued to explain that because such statistics are collected by the state and not made public, one cannot directly say of a number of people infected in a given county, “X” amount of them are in a specific municipality.
With that, it cannot be said how many of those cases are GPSD students or staff, largely due to the protections afforded by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as Little pointed out.
Thompson found it hard to imagine that at no time would GPSD students’ COVID-19 status be known unless volunteered, even if those students were participating in face-to-face instruction.
Little highlighted a forum nurses in Mississippi use to communicate with one another — the Mississippi School Nurses Association.
She said regarding some schools across the state of Mississippi who have students engaged in face-to-face instruction or hybrid, “What they are reporting is that parents have students whose children are testing positive, but they’re not reporting it so their kids can go to school.”
Little reiterated that individuals within the district don’t have to report their personal health information.
However, according to Little, each school has to send in an aggregate report to the MSDH of numbers, not names.
Trustee Emanuel Edmond asked, “Is it safe to assume that with the numbers trending upward, even though the students are not counted, a fairly large sampling of students could possibly have COVID?”
Little did not indicate whether it would or would not be safe to make such an assumption, but she responded, “According to the last webinar with Dr. Dobbs, there were three schools whose two football teams and one soccer team was shut down because of an outbreak and there have been other cases where they’ve had to quarantine because of outbreaks in the classroom and buildings and so forth.”
She concluded by acknowledging the uncertainty surrounding GPSD students and the board’s interest in knowing students’ COVID-19 status, but the information is simply inaccessible to anyone except the parent and student.