The first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed within Lake County School District last week.
The Center closed on Thursday, Sept. 10, following the positive test results of two individuals associated with the school. Two cohorts at West Park Elementary School were instructed to quarantine later that day due to possible exposure. More coverage of the cases, and the school district’s response, is found on page one.
The Herald wishes everyone involved a speedy recovery and a safe return to school.
The day The Center closed, I received a few calls from district parents. Each of them was upset about a lack of communication, alleging that one of the COVID-19 cases at The Center was confirmed days before Lake County School District (LCSD) closed the school.
I was intrigued. I checked Lake County Public Health Agency’s (LCPHA) case count online — two cases on Monday and one on Thursday (these counts were later amended by LCPHA to one case on Monday, one on Tuesday and one on Thursday). The parents’ theory might check out, I thought.
So, I asked LCPHA for the dates the two Center cases were confirmed. The agency answered “this past week.”
I asked again. LCPHA said they could not share the dates due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA is a federal law that ensures health privacy regulations, usually in regard to personally identifiable healthcare information.
I’m no attorney, but the thought that the dates of COVID-19 case confirmations could be barred from public record, seemed illegitimate. I put in a call to Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. The organization preliminary agreed — how would providing these dates disclose someone’s identity and violate HIPAA?
On Friday, I submitted a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request for the information. LCPHA confirmed, in response to the records request, that “individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 were connected to The Center in some way on Tuesday, Sept. 8 and Thursday, Sept. 10.”
LCPHA also explained that the agency does not have or is not able to disclose records including date-specific information in relation to COVID-19 test results, and that location related information for affected individuals is developed through contact tracing, not testing.
Late last week, I was prepared to pen an editorial about the importance of transparency during a pandemic. But as I sit at my desk Tuesday morning, a different reality shines through — the sheer complexity of the times we are living in.
Just look back at last week. LCSD students and/or staff got sick. Parents faulted LCSD for its decision making. Others likely applauded it. LCPHA declined to disclose information on COVID-19 to the Herald. Students were sent home to quarantine. LCPHA and LCSD conducted contact tracing. LCPHA amended case count numbers online. I worded a CORA request incorrectly. LCPHA provided the requested information anyway. Students were brought back from quarantine. Others stayed at home. Teachers continued to instruct. Students continued to learn. My head hurts just writing it.
The rigmarole will undoubtedly continue as we launch into another week of confusion, of “unprecedented times,” of uncertainty. And, as in past weeks, we will all try to respond — scurrying about, trying out hardest, messing up.