81 Covid cases reported in Vermont schools this academic year, according to new Department of Health data

Note: This story is more than a week old. Given how quickly the Covid-19 pandemic is evolving, we recommend that you read our latest coverage here.

A school bus in Hinesburg on Wednesday, August 25, 2021. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The Vermont Department of Health on Wednesday reported that 81 staff members and students have had Covid cases in school buildings while infectious since the beginning of the school year.

The new data, available for the first time this academic year on the department’s website, provides a school-by-school breakdown of the effects of Covid in K-12 communities. The department said in a note on its website that, going forward, it would update the data every Tuesday and include cases reported through the previous Sunday.

But the new data is not comprehensive. The department only reports school cases when the Covid-positive individual was physically present in a school building, at a school-related event or on the bus while infectious. 

According to a note in the department’s report, “The infectious period is when the person with COVID-19 is contagious. It starts two days before symptoms began and continues until they are recovered. For people who haven't had symptoms, the infectious period starts two days before they had a positive test.”

So if a school closes for the week because of a Covid case and a student develops symptoms three days later and tests positive for the virus, that student would not appear in the state’s data, regardless of whether they got it from the school or from somewhere else in the community.

The state also does not report Covid totals for schools with fewer than 25 students and staff because it does not want to inadvertently reveal private health information. Instead, it publishes a single row of data combining all “suppressed” schools.

Schools have already experienced closures of classes, grades and entire buildings due to Covid concerns. On Tuesday, Barre Town Middle and Elementary School announced the campus would close on Wednesday after uncovering several Covid cases.

Because of the reporting delay, Barre did not have any reported cases in Department of Health data.

Barre Town Middle and Elementary is the third school in the region to close temporarily, along with East Montpelier Elementary, which sent students to remote learning last week and Twinfield Union in Plainfield, which closed its elementary school grades for a day.

The health department does not report whether schools closed due to Covid cases, so it’s difficult to say how many schools, in total, have done so already this year.

The Barre, East Montpelier and Plainfield schools are not the only ones with multiple Covid cases so far this year.

Other schools that have reported two or more Covid cases, according to the department’s data are Barre City Elementary, Burke Town School, Colchester Middle School, Derby Elementary School, Highgate Elementary School, Hyde Park Elementary School, Main Street Middle School, Malletts Bay School, Missisquoi Valley Union High School, Montgomery Elementary School, North Country Junior High School, Pownal Elementary School, Shaftsbury Elementary School, Shoreham Elementary School, St. Johnsbury Academy and Swanton Schools.

Help us report on school closures and outbreaks. VTDigger is trying to track interruptions to school learning this year due to Covid-19. Whether you're a parent, student, staff member or administrator, your information can help us find stories and track trends in schools. Fill out our form to share information.

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Erin Petenko

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