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Covid in the Classroom? Some Schools Are Keeping It Quiet

From Dan Levin, writing in The New York Times…

On the first day of school in Camden County, Ga., local Facebook groups were already buzzing with rumors that a teacher had tested positive for the coronavirus. The next day, a warning went out to school administrators: Keep teachers quiet.

“Staff who test positive are not to notify any other staff members, parents of their students or any other person/entity that they may have exposed them,” Jon Miller, the district’s deputy superintendent, wrote in a confidential email on Aug. 5.

In the weeks since, parents, students and teachers in the coastal community on the Florida border have heard by word of mouth of more positive cases linked to district schools. Some parents said they had been called by local officials and told that their children should quarantine.

But even as fears of an outbreak have grown, the district has refused to publicly confirm a single case, either to the local community or The New York Times.

“This is a danger to our community,” said Cheryl Honeycutt, the mother of an 8-year-old Camden student. “We’re safer if we know what’s going on, but their pan answer is, ‘We can neither confirm or deny.’”

Cheryl Honeycutt is the mother of an 8-year-old student in the Camden County school district. “We’re safer if we know what’s going on,” she said.

As schools in parts of the country have reopened classrooms amid a still-raging pandemic, some districts have been open about coronavirus cases in their buildings. They send weekly — and in some cases, daily — reports to families and updating online dashboards with the latest positive test results and quarantine counts.

But other districts have been silent, sometimes citing privacy concerns to withhold information, to the dismay of some anxious parents, concerned educators and public health experts trying to combat the pandemic.

“If schools don’t notify, it actually can make disease control more difficult,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. “And it’s not like no one will know. Word will get out through a rumor mill. You don’t scare people by telling them what’s going on. You scare them by hiding information.”

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