How many COVID cases are tied to schools? Data errors make it hard to tell

The weekly dashboard for COVID-19 cases tied to Ohio K-12 schools had numerous discrepancies last Thursday, and health officials are trying to make fixes before this week’s update comes out today.

Several schools in the region had cases disappear from their cumulative totals when the Ohio Department of Health posted its weekly dashboard update on Thursday.

The confusion comes just as thousands of families in multiple communities are sending their children back to in-person school after spending the first quarter online. In Butler County, Middletown, Talawanda and Monroe schools returned more students to in-person classes this week.

Many schools publish their own updated COVID data on their school websites.

Ohio Department of Health officials looked at multiple discrepancies raised by the Journal-News and confirmed that the data posted on their website last Thursday “is what has been reported by the local health departments.”

Officials with the Warren County Health District acknowledged the ODH dashboard numbers for Franklin schools were wrong last Thursday, saying it appeared to be a transcription error in the final document. They said Franklin should have been listed with one new student case and no new staff cases in the Oct. 15 release, rather than three and one, respectively.

“We do not have any way of correcting those after it is on the ODH website until the next reporting week,” said Dustin Ratliff, sanitarian supervisor, planning and analytics for the Warren County Health District.

A statewide order issued in early September says schools have to contact their county health department within 24 hours of being notified of a COVID-19 case in a student or school employee. County health departments then report that data to ODH, which releases updated statistics each Thursday.

But issues with the data have existed from the beginning. Some cases didn’t show up in the state dashboard until two or three weeks after schools notified parents.

Other county health departments have acknowledged some data lag issues, citing a backlog of work and aging technology.


The Journal-News is the only media outlet in the region to regularly check coronavirus data for local schools and report on case numbers, quarantines and changes to plans. We have reporters in our communities following the most important stories, such as the health and safety of our area’s students.

About the Author