BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — A COVID-19 dashboard has been made available by Bay District Schools to keep parents informed about ongoing COVID-19 cases in the current school year.
On Tuesday, the dashboard was shared on the Bay District Schools Facebook page with a saveable link for parents’ view at any time.
Sharon Michalik, Director of communications for Bay District Schools said keeping parents informed about COVID-19 cases has always been a top priority for Superintendent Bill Husfelt.
Before the dashboard was released, the protocol was to contact parents, staff, and teachers of a confirmed case.
“All the parents at that school get an email that just says ‘there is a confirmed case’,” Michalik said. “Then, the people who are identified as close contacts who need to quarantine, get a second communication that says ‘you have now been identified as a close contact, and here’s what you need to do’.”
Michalik said this protocol is still in place but with a growing interest in COVID-19 cases in the district as a whole, officials wanted to offer a more up-to-date option.
The district worked directly with the Florida Department of Education and the Department of Health in order to bring the dashboard to life.
“Obviously there are people who want us to share everything and obviously we can’t,” Mihalik said. “That’s all HIPAA protected medical information.”
Michalik said the dashboard is a compromise to bridge the gap between the two barriers — complete transparency and patient privacy.
The dashboard includes total cases, total quarantined, and total schools involved — daily totals and overall totals.
“We’re going to update this Monday’s, Wednesdays, and Fridays,” Michalik said. “It’s a collaborative effort between our nurse and our Management Information Systems department.”
Michalik said, even though the total number of schools with COVID cases is included in the dashboard, the actual name of the schools are not.
“Any parent of a child at a school where there is a case identified will be told,” Michalik said. “A parent of a child at a different elementary school doesn’t need to know that because it doesn’t impact them at all.”
Michalik said not only is that information confidential, having it put out there would cause too much speculation.
“If a child is out sick on that particular day and a parent knew, other parents knew ‘that’s my kid’s school’, then they’re going to start guessing,” Michalik said. “Was it little Johnny in first period, is it Susie out of second period, that kind of stuff. And that’s just not necessary.”
Michalik said medical information has always been confidential and COVID-19 doesn’t change that.
“We’re doing all that we can to protect the identity of those who are sick,” Michalik said. “We never share medical information, we have kids with the flu we don’t tell who’s got the flu, we don’t tell who’s out with the chickenpox so we’re not going to identify who is out with COVID-19.”
If parents want to make sure they are contacted by the district about a COVID-19 exposure, they must do their part as well.
“It is crucial, however, that parents have up-to-date phone numbers and accurate email addresses on file in parent portal,” Michalik said. “Because what has been happening is that notification of these cases tends to come in the late afternoons. We’re sending the mass notifications using our mass notification system which is only as good as the data that’s in it.
“We want to send every parent an email, but if you have not provided an email address for us, then that’s not possible for us,” Michalik said.
Click here for the COVID-19 Bay District Schools Dashboard link.