State Removes School COVID-19 Case Data Over Accuracy Questions

The district-by-district coronavirus case counts did not always match what schools themselves were reporting.

By Jill Ament & Shelly BrisbinSeptember 29, 2020 11:09 am, ,

Questions about the accuracy of how the state tracks coronavirus cases in public schools continue. On Friday the state rescinded some recently released data that’s provided information about district-wide coronavirus case levels.

Cayla Harris is a state politics and education reporter for The San Antonio Express News and The Houston Chronicle. She told Texas Standard that the state had published a dashboard showing the number of COVID-19 cases in Texas public schools. Last week, the state added a spreadsheet that broke the data down by school district. The spreadsheet later disappeared from the web site and a note was added, indicating there had been “issues” with the data provided.

“There were some issues that were apparent immediately,” Harris said. “You could add up the total cases that were on the spreadsheet and were getting something like 6,700 total cases, whereas on the actual dashboard, it was 6,300.”

In addition, districts reported different numbers than those that appeared on the state spreadsheet.

Harris said that when she asked state officials about data discrepancies, she was told that the amount of information being provided was “unprecedented” in the realm of public health data. Public health has been chronically underfunded in Texas, Harris said.

“It’s not really an excuse for bad data, it’s just one of the reasons why it’s happening,” she said.

Parents and others who need to know how many coronavirus cases have been reported by a local school district can obtain that date from the district or from the school they’re interested in, because the data is public information, Harris said.

Some districts and communities are reporting this sort of data on their own web sites.

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