Vero Beach, FL, March 8, 2021– In order to maintain the level of transparency and trust that we have built with our stakeholders, and due to the concerns that misinformation could cause our community, we feel that it is important to respond to an article that was published by Vero News 32963 on March 4th, 2021, “Why is school district underreporting COVID-19?”
Throughout the 2020-2021 school year, our school district has been working in partnership with the Indian River County Department of Health, to support their case investigations and contact tracing within our campuses and district facilities. It is evident that Vero News 32963 either does not understand our district’s parameters and reporting processes or is willingly misrepresenting facts in their reporting to mislead the community and create unnecessary concern during challenging times.
The accuracy of the reported information regarding positive COVID-19 cases in our district is of utmost importance, which is why we continue, one year after our community was impacted by COVID-19, to release daily press releases, phone calls, and notifications to our families reporting this data. The discrepancies in reported numbers that Vero News 32963 is claiming as the “underreporting” of positive cases, can be clearly explained by understanding the following reporting parameters:
- All branches of the Florida Department of Health in each county have required reporting parameters set by the state. These parameters include reporting all positive COVID-19 cases within their respective county.
- The SDIRC is only reporting cases within the district that involve an individual who was in our schools/facilities during the 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms until they were identified and reported as positive.
- The Department of Health’s school report reflects all laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in students and staff associated with all Florida primary, secondary and post-secondary schools that have resumed classes. This includes students and faculty who are learning from home and teleworking.
The attempt of Vero News 32963 to match data reported by the Florida Department of Health to the information that our district reports to the public confirms their failure and/or unwillingness to recognize the differences in parameters and reporting between the two entities. Claims causing confusion, misrepresentation of information, and unnecessary concern in our community, while suggesting that our district is not being transparent in their communication regarding COVID-19 cases in our schools and facilities, will not be tolerated. To do so in a community that has been impacted with so many challenges surrounding COVID-19 in the past year is offensive and insensitive.
In addition, we would like to respond to the article published by Vero News 32963 “Vero Beach High principal hospitalized with COVID-19.” Principal O’Keefe released a public statement providing an update on his condition after being overwhelmed with questioning from Vero News 32963 regarding his health.
Since returning to campus, Principal O’Keefe received an email with further questioning surrounding his health entitled, “Reporter Inquiry: COVID-19 asymptomatic super-spreader potential, hush-hush approach HIPAA not apply.” The attempt to gain personal medical information regarding one of our staff members through questioning in emails and phone calls is a clear display of insensitivity and intrusiveness, a violation of personal rights, and an attack on his integrity during a challenging time for his family, school family, and himself.
For a media outlet to suggest that our employees must divulge personal information due to privacy rules not applying to them, is a complete misinterpretation of such rules and violation of our employees’ right to privacy. The School District of Indian River County and our employees are not legally obligated to respond to questions received from the media, however, we do so to maintain a positive and transparent relationship with the media and our community.
The personal information of our employees that is exempt from public records request, which includes personal medical information, will continue to be protected by our school district. We are thankful to those media outlets who continue to provide a fair representation of our school district based on accurate information and respect the privacy of our students and staff members.
If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Cristen Maddux at 772-564-5527 or email at Cristen.firstname.lastname@example.org.