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11 coronavirus outbreaks, 43 cases linked to schools in NJ: officials

Posted at 4:09 PM, Sep 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-01 09:25:14-04

TRENTON, N.J. — Officials are tracking 11 confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks linked to schools in New Jersey, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Wednesday.

The outbreaks are spread across 11 different schools and involve a combined 43 cases.

Gov. Phil Murphy said information regarding instances of confirmed in-school COVID-19 transmission will now be publicly available, broken down by county, on the state Health Department's online dashboard.

The dashboard balances the need for transparency with protecting the privacy of students and staff, Murphy said.

Outbreaks associated with in-school transmission are considered to be two or more lab-confirmed cases among students and/or staff within 14 days, which can be epidemiologically linked within the school setting, do not share a household and were not identified as close contacts of each other in another setting, Persichilli said.

Anytime a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, they are interviewed by a member of the local health department about where they’ve been and who they’ve been in close contact with to determine whether in-school transmission has occurred.

In each outbreak, local health officials recommend whether to temporarily close a school or determine other actions to mitigate the spread of the virus based on their investigation and a state-provided guidance matrix.

While there are several scenarios within the guidance matrix that would recommend a school close for at least 14 days, Murphy said there is no percent positivity threshold that would force a closure.

As of Wednesday, the state Department of Education has approved 802 reopening plans for public, charter and special service schools, according to Murphy.

Of the completed plans, 403 are open for hybrid education; 278 are all-remote; 81 are open for all in-person instruction; and 40 are using a combination of all-of-the-above depending on individual schools within a single district.

Fewer than a dozen districts are still finalizing their written reopening plans, according to the governor.