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COVID cases soaring in Indiana schools even with many schools not reporting

Since school started in late July, COVID cases in the classroom have quickly climbed to the highest level since the state started keeping track in schools.

INDIANAPOLIS — The state's school COVID-19 dashboard received an update Monday that lets you see new cases reported this school year

But many numbers are missing.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box is pleading with schools to report COVID cases as required.  

Since school started in late July, COVID cases in the classroom have quickly climbed to the highest level since the state started keeping track in schools a year ago. More than 4,400 were reported in the past week, with a one-day record high of 1,317 cases August 23. But the actual numbers are probably higher.  

"It is clear that many of our schools this year are not reporting,” said Box. “We do know, because we get lots of calls from school nurses, from parents, from other concerned individuals in communities, that there are many students being quarantined sometimes, but not positive cases reported."

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Box said as of Friday, over 1,200 schools - more than half the schools registered in the state - have not reported COVID data this school year.

"It is difficult to know exactly what's happening when schools are not willing to report cases and not willing to report close contacts, and we are working with the schools very closely and talking to the department of education about what future actions or supports could be given to schools that are doing the right thing here," said Box.

Credit: WTHR
Indiana Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver (left) and State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box (right) at a press briefing on Aug. 30, 2021.

Schools are required to report confirmed positive COVID cases to the local and state health departments within 24 hours.

"There are a lot of schools that are working very, very hard to report their cases and it takes them a lot of time to do the contact tracing to call parents, explain the situation to them,” said Box. “So, I really want to give a shout out to the schools that are doing that. That's very, very important."

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The state dashboard shows zeroes for Indianapolis Public Schools, with no data reported this school year or last. But IPS provides its own online dashboard with even more detailed information for more than 70 schools. 

13News reached out to IPS early Monday to ask why the state was not receiving COVID data from the district. IPS responded with the following statement:

IPS has and continues to report positive cases and quarantine data to the Marion County Public Health Department. Reporting to the Indiana State Department of Health did not become a requirement for school districts until July 2021. Due to the district’s size, we are working with the Indiana State Department of Health on the most efficient and effective method to begin providing student and staff positive cases/quarantine data.

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