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Illinois to begin releasing data on coronavirus outbreaks in schools

The state previously has not disclosed any data connected to specific schools.

In this Sept. 3, 2020, file photo, students keep social distance as they walk to their classroom in Highwood, Ill.
In this Sept. 3, 2020, file photo, students keep social distance as they walk to their classroom in Highwood, Ill.
AP

The Illinois Department of Public Health will begin releasing data on coronavirus outbreaks connected to schools, department spokesperson Melaney Arnold confirmed Thursday.

Outbreaks are tracked internally by IDPH through their Outbreak Reporting System, and are defined as two or more cases connected to a single location.

Arnold said Thursday that the school-level data will include “number of cases and outbreaks” and that officials “look forward to having that live in the coming weeks.”

IDPH has been publicly providing data on “youth cases,” or cases in individuals under 20 years old, in order for school and local health officials to make decisions on e-learning. But the state previously has not disclosed any data connected to specific schools.

The outbreak data released by the state so far has been limited to nursing homes and long-term care facilities, which saw the majority of coronavirus deaths during the first few months of the pandemic in Illinois.

Arnold stressed that local health departments would have the most up-to-date data on cases in schools, and also noted that schools are required to notify parents as cases rise.

Chicago Public Schools officials announced last week that they plan to phase-in a return to school buildings after starting the year doing remote learning. Some special education and pre-kindergarten students are scheduled to return, with more students possible coming back in January.

Other districts around the state have switched back to remote learning after starting in a hybrid fashion, although some districts continue to offer in-person classes.