Texas county unveils stunning COVID-19 dashboard for schools
Over the past few weeks, individual school districts across the country have released their versions of dashboards to keep staff and the public informed of cases and outbreaks of COVID-19 in their communities.
The data can help school boards and district leaders make decisions about when and how they can safely reopen for hybrid or in-person learning, subject to a number of guidelines, including those from county and public health agencies.
While many of the district dashboards simply show numbers of cases for their schools, others developed by states or counties can be far more robust and far more informative.
For example, in Tarrant County Texas, which encompasses the Fort Worth Independent School District, education leaders and families can view an interactive heat map of districts throughout the area and recommendations for reopening – shown in green for in-person, yellow for hybrid and red for virtual.
With data updated every Monday at the fingertips – and by being able to compare how other districts are faring – smart decisions can be made. The map currently shows some districts in Tarrant County are not ready to reopen live, but most show positive signs they can reopen in some fashion.
“The new dashboard, along with our existing education guidance, is designed to help our school leadership and parents understand their local COVID-19 infection rates so they can make the best decisions for their children,” Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja said. “Right now, the health status of many of the school zones has improved to a point where a hybrid learning model may be appropriate.”
Checking the map
After going to the website, users can select their specific school district and even their individual school … or others they’d like to view. Once chosen, the district will be highlighted in the map in the center of the screen with a color shade. A menu on the right gives recommended learning scenarios – in-person, hybrid or virtual and then lists a number of benchmarks, including case rate and trend for the week, the county’s rate of infection per 100,000 residents and then the district’s rate.
It also lists the high school attendance zone rate per 100,000 and then a four-week case trend. For example, though Diamond Hill Jarvis High School is in the red zone and recommended for virtual learning, its two-week and four-week case trends show a green arrow pointing down. Good news, but still not ready to reopen.
To fully be green, case numbers must be below 5% over a seven-day period. None of those areas has met that criteria yet. Districts can choose to reopen, but it would be against county health officials’ guidance at this time.
“The data metrics in Tarrant County show that the COVID-19 situation has improved enough in several school zones, shown in yellow, to allow the hybrid model of learning,” Taneja said. “The areas indicated in red are still best suited for virtual learning, as they present a high risk of spread posed by COVID-19.”
In early August, Tarrant County Health officials released guidance to schools on reopening and offered these recommendations:
- The seven-day moving average percent of people who test positive (Positivity Rate) is 10% or less, ideally less than 5%. The lower the positivity rate, the less likely COVID-19 will be introduced into the schools.
- The rate of cases reported for Tarrant County needs to be 100 cases per 100,000 population, or less than 2,000 cases per week.
- At least the last 4 weeks of data showing stable or declining case counts. This is to compensate for incomplete data in the most recent 2 weeks due to typical reporting lags.
- The seven-day moving average for COVID Like Illness (CLI) percent should be trending lower for at least the last 2 weeks.
- The percent of hospital beds occupied in Tarrant County by COVID-19 cases at or below 10%.
- ISDs and/or school have presented plans for reopening, including the elements outlined in this guide, to TCPH LHA and as applicable to Arlington and Burleson Local Health Authorities (LHA) for review and comments.
Chris Burt is a reporter and editor with District Administration. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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