School COVID-19 Data: Frequently Asked Questions
What information is available?
Starting on Friday, Oct. 2, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) included additional school related COVID-19 data for K-12 schools. The data focuses on cases associated with school buildings where students or staff members were in a school building while being infectious.
The goal of this information is to show the scope of the impact of COVID-19 on all Minnesota schools. The aggregate school data is in the Weekly COVID-19 Report. The listing of schools with five or more cases is at Situation Update for COVID-19: Facilities with Cases & Exposures.
The school data includes:
- Lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among school staff and students who worked or attended school at a Minnesota PreK-12 school building while they were infectious or able to spread COVID-19. Public, non-public, and tribal schools are included.
- The cumulative number of K-12 school buildings that reported cases. It also includes the total number of buildings with reported cases broken down by the number of cases, such as one case in the building, two to four cases, and five or more cases.
- Listing the names and counties of schools that have five or more confirmed cases within a two-week period on our situation update page. Schools will be removed from the list after 28 days with no new lab-confirmed cases.
Where can I find the data?
The aggregate school data is in the Weekly COVID-19 Report. The listing of schools with five or more cases is at Situation Update for COVID-19: Facilities with Cases & Exposures.
When does MDH include a school on its public list of named schools?
Schools that have five or more confirmed cases within a two-week period are included in the named list of schools on our situation update webpage. Schools will be removed from the list after 28 days with no new lab-confirmed cases.
Why is the naming cutoff at five cases?
In school settings, it can be hard to know if a cluster of cases among staff and students is occurring due to people getting the virus within the school or in the broader community. Because of this, a benchmark of five indicates likely transmission in a school. The five-cases-benchmark is also consistent with reporting of school outbreaks in some other states.
Should parents send their children to school if the school is listed?
Yes, parents can continue to send their children to school even if the school is listed, unless the school has been advised to change their learning model due to the nature of cases in the building. Also, if the child or student has been identified as a close contact of one of the confirmed cases, they should not go to school until the end of their quarantine period.
How do you inform schools about their status on the public list?
Schools are likely aware of their status with cases as a result of working with their regional support teams, local public health, and tribal health partners to assess cases and close contacts in their school setting. However, the Minnesota Department of Education does call and notify schools who will be included on the list the day prior to MDH posting the information.
How does being named affect whether a school can continue in-person or hybrid learning?
The number of cases in a school building can affect a school’s learning model. However, changes in school learning models depend on many factors and occur after a consultation process, not just being on the public list. Specific examples of situations that may necessitate transitions between learning models are included in the Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 School Year guidance.
How do schools get off the list?
MDH removes schools from the list after 28 days with no new laboratory-confirmed cases. This is two 14-day incubation periods, and 28 days without cases suggests the risk of further spread from the initial exposure is low.
If a school has less than five cases, are they required to tell their school community about the cases?
Schools are to notify those who had close contact with a person with a lab-confirmed case in the school. Schools are also expected to share that cases have been identified with the larger school community. At the same time, schools are expected to protect the privacy of students and staff with infections and are not required to share details about the cases.
Did all of the reported school cases get COVID-19 in a school building?
These case counts do not necessarily mean the people got COVID-19 from being at school. It also does not mean that these cases resulted in transmission or other people getting COVID-19 at school. It means they had COVID-19 and were infectious while in a school building.
If someone was in a building several days before they got a COVID-19 test, are they counted as a school case?
People without symptoms are counted if they were in a school building during the two days prior to their test. People with symptoms are counted if they were in a school building during the two days prior to the onset of their symptoms.
What will happen when someone was on the school grounds or at sports practice but not in the building?
A student or staff person with COVID-19 who was on the school grounds who did not enter the building would not be included in the count. A person at sports practice who did not enter the building would not be included either.
Does the count include distance learners who get COVID-19?
No, it only includes those who have been in a school building.
Where does the data come from? Is it directly from schools?
The data comes from the Minnesota Electronic Disease Surveillance System, which is a MDH disease tracking system. The data does not come to MDH from schools. Schools are required to report cases to MDH, but we use the information they provide to make sure we identify all cases, rather than as our primary source of tracking information.
Does the data include private schools and tribal schools?
Yes, private and tribal schools are included.
What do we learn from the data?
This aggregate data provides a picture of what is going on with COVID-19 and schools. For example, we know that not all cases associated with a school are the result of transmission happening in the school. We also have learned that cases in schools are impacted by the amount of virus spreading in the community.