TRENTON - The New Jersey Covid Dashboard began reporting Covid outbreaks in state schools. The most recent report notes 23 outbreaks in schools across the state involving 102 infected individuals. The dashboard shows one outbreak involving three individuals in a Cape May County school.
The strict state definition of an outbreak and the natural delays inherent in obtaining cooperation and information from hundreds of individual school districts make any report on the state dashboard a likely undercount of the impact of Covid on school populations.
Some school districts established website pages to inform the community of the extent of Covid infections in district schools; however, community notice is not a requirement, and many school districts elected not to publish such data.
The state dashboard does not identify the local school that experienced an outbreak consistent with the state definition. What is known is that school district dashboards at Dennis Township School District and Lower Cape May Regional School District show that the presence of positive Covid cases is more prevalent in county schools than the state dashboard indicates.
Dennis Township reported nine positive Covid cases among students, so far, in September. Lower Cape May Regional reported three positive cases at the high school and four cases at the middle school.
The discrepancy between school district reporting and the state dashboard is not uncommon. The Cherry Hill School District, in Camden County, shows 28 students and five staff positive for Covid, while the state dashboard indicates that Camden County has zero outbreaks.
Reporting school districts are giving a comprehensive view of Covid infection levels in schools, regardless of whether the infection resulted from school transmission.
The state dashboard works through an outbreak definition that requires three or more confirmed cases within 14 days epidemiologically linked with the school setting, and it requires a judgment that Covid spread through school transmission, meaning that the dashboard will not give an accurate picture of Covid presence in school districts, as it is not designed to do so.