Indiana's data dashboard for school COVID-19 cases is now public, and the state's largest teachers union says it's a critical step to fight misinformation about what's happening in schools.
According to the dashboard 1,676 student cases have been reported since the start of the school year, with 678 cases reported among teachers and staff. Reported data shows 376 new cases during the week of Sept. 19.
Indiana State Teachers Association Vice President Jennifer Smith-Margraf said the availability of the dashboard is critical; without a reliable data source, people are more likely to hear and believe misinformation.
"They will fill in the blanks themselves, and often they will fill in the blanks with not the correct picture," she said.
The union played a key role in pressuring the state to put together the dashboard, but the reporting process is voluntary and doesn't reflect data from every school. Some are still being added or have chosen not to send information to the state out of concerns for student privacy.
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But Smith-Margraf said there are ways to report that data safely and that the state has been responsive to privacy concerns. She said school leaders have an obligation to share their data with the public because of the impact it could have on communities at large.
"We are a congregate setting where there can be potential for spread to happen that affects larger pockets of the community," she said.
The dashboard shows most cases among students have been reported at the middle and high school levels. State officials say more schools are expected to add data to the dashboard in the coming weeks, and that the website will update weekly on Mondays.