KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Two weeks after the first day of class, Knox County Schools is bringing back its COVID-19 dashboard to keep families informed about the spread of the virus in their children’s schools.
Starting Aug. 23, a districtwide COVID-19 dashboard will show KCS parents active COVID-19 cases among staff and students that have been confirmed by the Knox County Health Department.
Families will also start getting notifications from their child’s school principal if there is a confirmed case at their school. The move comes after some Knox County parents decided to do their own contact tracing.
According to Toni Sowell, who has a kindergartener at Beaumont Elementary, some of the parents started a GoogleDoc for their classes to notify other parents if their child has COVID-19 or is quarantining due to a close contact.
“You can put in your own data and we all contact each other if anybody’s been exposed or tested positive,” Sowell said. She’s glad the parents decided to do something about contact tracing on their own.
Although her daughter hasn’t had a full day of school yet, Sowell already requested to join the GoogleDoc so she can help other parents, and learn if her child is exposed sooner.
“If my kid had COVID, I would want any kid that came near them to know. I mean, it’s a disease, you don’t want to spread the disease to other children, and vice versa. I would like to know if a kid who sat next to my kid in class had COVID, we would quarantine, and we wouldn’t go to, you know, Kroger that night. and all these different places where we could continue spreading it,” Sowell said.
Another parent, Megan Saturday, said she wished her child’s class had something similar at Christenberry Elementary. Right now, she’s relying on word of mouth from her daughter.
“My daughter has told me she’s had lots of students absent in her class. She claimed that only 11 and 12 have been there this week out of a class of 19. So, to me that was pretty concerning not knowing, you know if that’s typical; if they’re sick,” Saturday said.
Saturday said setting up a notification system between parents would be difficult at her child’s school for several reasons. But, she said she has no doubt she would try to tell any parent or teacher if she could.
“If my daughter were to, unfortunately, come down with COVID, I would do whatever I could to obviously inform the school,” Saturday said.
Both Saturday and Sowell hoped the district would start being a team player and inform the parents about cases in their schools. They said the district has the responsibility to keep the virus at bay, and their kids safe.
“I feel like we need to have a team effort on this, which, thankfully seems we have at our school so far. At least we’re trying to,” Sowell said.
“I don’t think the health department has the resources to let every contact know of every COVID positive case. That’s just not feasible. It’s not going to happen. That’s why they need to work together with the schools because the schools had that information readily available. They can easily send a quick email, phone call to close contacts and that would make a lot more sense,” Saturday said.
The Knox County Health Department sent this statement in regards to how long it’s taking for their office to contact trace:
“The process from interviewing a case to reaching out to their close contacts is not immediate and relies on several factors, including receiving a laboratory result, getting ahold of the individual, identifying close contacts, and then reaching out and getting ahold of those close contacts. The Tennessee Department of Health assists KCHD and other regions with contact notification and monitoring. Due to the rapid increase in case volume, there can be a considerable lag time. We don’t have an exact timeline for how long this is taking, but we can ask the state. This is why we encourage all cases to notify their close contacts of potential exposure so that they can take the appropriate steps.”
The move for KCS to bring back the COVID-19 case count dashboard also comes as Knoxville regional hospitals report they are treating the most COVID-19 inpatients since January. Tennessee hospitals warned Thursday that the intensive care units are full in nearly every hospital in the state’s major metropolitan areas, pleading with Tennesseans to get vaccinated and wear masks.
The Knox County School Board voted not to issue a mask mandate ahead of the school year.