Red zone communities in CT see more COVID cases in schools
The state’s reporting of COVID-19 cases among schools shows that communities tagged as a “red zone” — which means infections are rising — are also seeing more school cases.
Norwalk, for example, is under a red zone alert and seven schools have five or less students or staff with COVID, the state numbers show. Brien McMahon High School reported six students with coronavirus.
The data in the state dashboard is for the time period beginning Oct. 22 and ending Oct. 28.
Other red zone communities in Fairfield and New Haven counties include Bridgeport, which reported 12 schools with five or fewer COVID cases; Stamford, with 13 schools with five or fewer cases; and Danbury, which had nine schools with five or fewer cases. Bridgeport and Stamford only recently joined the red zone list.
These cities passed the threshold for the red zone list with a rate of 15 per 100,000 residents or higher.
Ansonia, also a red zone community, is an exception. The city reported only one school with five or fewer cases.
The numbers are generally lower in non-red zone communities.
Fairfield reported three of its 11 schools had five or fewer cases; Greenwich, three schools, New Haven, five schools; Hamden, two schools; Middletown, one school; and Torrington, one school.
During a news conference Thursday, Lamont said the school infection rate is “relatively flat” compared to the general population, meaning it’s not rising as fast.
“They are finding that in-classroom activity is a low infection level,” Lamont added.
Of the 1,500 schools that reported data for the week-long period, 1,254 reported no cases, or about 84 percent, and 232 reported five or fewer cases, or about 15 percent.
The state did release cumulative, statewide COVID infection data. Those numbers show that since Sept. 2 there have been 130 COVID cases among school staff and that 250 students contracted the disease.
In all, there are 550,000 students and school staff statewide.
Even with release of the data, figuring out how many COVID cases are actually at each school is difficult because of rules set by the state.
When there are five or fewer cases reported at a school, those cases are shown as fewer than six in the state’s dashboard, instead of giving an exact number, making it unclear whether it’s closer to one or five.
The reason is privacy concerns, said Av Harris, a spokesman for the state Department of Health, which is overseeing the database.
Harris said listing two or three cases at a school could make it easier to figure out the identity of the students or staff. “We have to protect people’s privacy,” he noted.
Medical data overall is confidential under state law unless release of that data is deemed to be in the public interest by the public health commissioner.
“It’s basically all confidential unless the commissioner deems it releasable,” Harris said. “The rationale is that anything five and under could be identifiable.”
Harris did not explain why the school by school accounting covers only the last week and not all weeks since reporting began Sept. 2.