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Schools linked to virus outbreaks to be made public, Michigan's chief medical exec says

The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan plans to track and release the names of schools with coronavirus outbreaks, the state's chief medical executive said Wednesday.

"I also know there's been a lot of interest in understanding outbreaks at schools, which is very understandable," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.

MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun

The state health department will work with local health departments "to gather names of specific schools that have outbreaks associated with them," she said.

"We expect to be able to post that information on our website in the next two weeks." 

The announcement comes as schools reopen and after news released Monday that five K-12 Michigan schools reported new outbreaks of the coronavirus last week, bringing the total number of outbreaks in schools to eight since Aug. 20.

Outbreaks are reported by local health departments to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services each week and are defined as two or more cases with links to exposure outside of a household, state health officials said.

The reveal also comes after a campaign where a coalition of media organizations  — including The Detroit News — asked for the information to be released.

"I continue to be incredibly proud of the dedication and the expertise of our local health officers and their staff who are really on the front lines of fighting this disease, and we're going to continue to work them to update our data reporting," Khaldun said.

Local health departments reported 93 new outbreaks last week. As of Wednesday, Michigan reported 103,710 confirmed cases of the virus and 6,509 deaths linked to it.

According to a Michigan State University study, 86% of school districts resuming instruction in the state will offer some or all learning face-to-face as the school year opens. A deal between the GOP-led Legislature and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in August included prioritizing in-person instruction for K-5 students, requiring consultation with local health departments to develop district-specific plans and giving schools the freedom to choose hybrid instruction, online-only classes or in-person learning. 

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