New dashboard tracks COVID-19 transmission in New Jersey schools

Thursday, October 1, 2020
New NJ dashboard tracks in-school COVID-19 transmission
Murphy showed off a new data dashboard that will be used to keep track of cases associated with in-school transmission of the virus.

TRENTON, New Jersey -- During a Wednesday coronavirus briefing, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy detailed a new data dashboard that will be used to keep track of cases associated with in-school transmission of the virus.

The dashboard will also track outbreaks. The individual schools or districts are not listed, but state officials say schools are required to report outbreaks to families.

So far, 11 New Jersey schools have experienced outbreaks since the beginning of August and 43 cases have been linked to in-school transmission, officials said.

A school "outbreak" is considered two or more positive COVID-19 cases that are linked to in-school transmission within a 14-day period with no other outside link.

"In school transmission is considered the transmission of the virus between students and/or school staff that occurs within school property," said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.

State officials the current data should give districts and parents confidence going forward.

Even though parents like Justin McCarthy are struggling through virtual school, he's still not ready to send his kids back.

"You know, just basic things like keeping the internet going. If the internet goes out, we're losing lessons," said McCarthy, of Hamilton Township, who has a kindergartener and a second-grader. "I think it's safer to be at home even though it may be more challenging."

State officials say among the schools that have offered in-person classes, disruptions have been minimal.

Recently, Washington Township High School in Gloucester County delayed the start of in-person classes by a week to allow more time for contact tracing after a large gathering of students, and Lenape High School students, in Burlington County, missed a day of classes after two people tested positive.

Murphy hopes virtual districts will feel comfortable moving to in-person classes.

"We have in place the protocols and guidance to ensure that when identified, a case is removed as quickly and carefully as possible from the building environment," said Murphy.

So far, the decision making has been left up to local school leaders as to whether a school should close if cases start to pop up - with guidance from the local health department.