‘We all work together’: Columbia County schools will now publicly report cases of COVID-19

Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 7:03 PM EDT
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EVANS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Columbia County schools are now recording the number of COVID-19 cases at each of their schools, for both students and staff. We find out what sparked the decision to start giving this information.

The list of new cases that came up for last week, and officials will be updating this list every Friday on their website.

But it wasn’t always that easy. With COVID-19, there’s a fine line between what’s private and what’s public.

But as the school year in Columbia County began, News 12 started receiving letter after letter. And the questions came in to confirm cases and ask how many there were?

“We were trying to respond those things, but at the same time, focus on what was most important- which was having our children, our faculty and staff in buildings safely able to have school,” Dr. Sandra Carraway, Columbia County Schools superintendent, said.

Dr. Carraway said the number of media requests became overwhelming. In the first week, they confirmed each case.

But then News 12 tried to confirm a case, without names or ages at one point and were declined.

So, we filed an Open Records Request, trying to find out how many cases the district had. The school district initially declined, citing privacy concerns.

“Sometimes what can be shared or what should be shared from our perspective and yours can be different,” Dr. Carraway explained.

But after discussion, the school system decided to release the number of cases and start recording them publicly on their website.

“The biggest prompt was media questions,” Dr. Carraway said. “It can help hopefully squelch some of the rumors that they hear, you know.”

The school system says they will only record numbers weekly, along with the active positive cases -- to give everyone a better picture of what's going on and give parents confidence.

"What people should most concern themselves with is right now in our community- how many positive people are there?" Dr. Carraway said.

School officials say they aren't trying to hide anything or minimize it, rather it's always been about serving the community well.

“It’s our goal to be cooperative. We all work together. We all serve a community, so our goal should be the same,” Dr. Carraway said.

Dr. Carraway also told News 12 that in nearly every case of COVID-19 in the district so far, the person is now healthy.

She hopes these numbers give everyone more comfort.

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