Tennessee won’t break down school Covid-19 numbers after all

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NASHVILLE (WDEF) – For the last two weeks, Tennessee officials have been promising transparent numbers so parents will know when a Covid-19 case happens in their child’s school.

It has been the foundation of Governor Lee’s policy on reopening schools… it is up to parents to decide for themselves.

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But now his team says they won’t post numbers for individual schools after all.

As students return to class, we’ve seen a confusing mix of what school systems will release to parents and the public in general.

Some are just informing staff and parents; some are silent.  Bradley County released specific cases on a school basis to the community.

Hamilton County is posting an online dashboard, but the information doesn’t tell you what’s going on at the school.

Last week, the Governor’s team said each school system would input numbers to state servers and the state would post results on individual schools.

But today, they said it would be up to the schools to decide what to report to the public.

When reporters pressed them on it, they blamed HIPPA regulations.

And the questions got tough. (see video)

Without ever actually admitting that they have changed their minds, administration officials said Tennessee is under a higher level of HIPPA restrictions than other states.

Dr. Piercey acknowledges that they originally blamed HIPPA for not posting nursing home cases too, but reversed course.  She says in that case, the federal government asked them to post the numbers.

They do say there is a national discussion among states now on what they can and should release.

Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn says the concern is that releasing information on a Covid-19 case in a small school could lead to people figuring out who the sick person is.

So, in essence, schools under 200 students are keeping them from posting results on the rest of schools.

Governor Lee calls it a difficult balance between informing concerned parents and protecting the privacy of their kids.

“A lot of folks would like to know a lot of information.  But a lot of folks also don’t want the information about their children or about their individual life or the particulars about their own individual health to be made public.”

Commissioner Schwinn says some local districts, after consulting their own attorneys, may choose to release more.

Putnam County schools are now posting a very specific dashboard breakdown of cases in their schools.

They insist that school systems are doing a good job of keeping them informed about cases.

But neither the Governor nor the Commissioners of Health or Education can or would guarantee parents that you will hear about a Covid-19 outbreak at your child’s school.

(VIDEO NOTES: The video is more than 5:00 long, but it is still heavily edited. The questions lasted 30 + minutes.  We have included reporter questions and allowed each speaker to respond.  Every time you see a dissolve, there has been an edit.)