Over the past week, the number of New Jersey schools reporting coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreaks has increased from six to 23 as cases rise among students and faculty across the state, said Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) in a press conference yesterday.
“Among students, there are 82 reported cases of (COVID-19) across 22 school districts, with 16 cases among staff in 10 of those districts,” he said. “And there is one district where an outbreak has been identified solely among four staff members.”
The outbreaks span across 11 counties, with Mercer, Atlantic and Morris counties reporting the most outbreaks, according to an article from NJ Advance Media. Mercer County currently has six outbreaks with a total of 30 cases, Atlantic County has four outbreaks with a total of 12 cases and Morris county has three outbreaks with a total of 15 cases.
The number of total students and staff that have tested positive since the start of the school year is currently not known, as outbreak numbers only include cases in which contact tracers believe the individuals caught COVID-19 at school, according to the article. The numbers do not include those who have tested positive and are believed to have contracted the virus outside of school.
Murphy said that as the K-12 COVID-19 screening testing program gets fully underway, the state anticipates having more robust data regarding these numbers to share. State epidemiologist Christina Tan said she hopes this data can become publicly available in the near future.
“It’s going to be very helpful not only to the students and the staff and the schools but also to the general public to have a sense of what is going on because a lot of times the school transmission information outside of outbreak activity also helps to reflect what’s going on in the community,” she said.
Schools in New Jersey are currently not required to publicly disclose the number of students or teachers who have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the article — though districts are supposed to report the numbers to local health officials and alert students who are considered “close contacts.”
Several school districts publicly report the number of positive tests on their websites or by message, so far reporting hundreds of cases among students and staff, according to the article. At least 7 schools throughout New Jersey have moved online since the start of the school year, with 3 of these schools still remaining virtual.
Throughout the previous school year, it was reported that New Jersey schools had a total of 281 outbreaks including 1,263 positive tests among students and staff, according to the article.
“As the new academic year unfolds, we are continuing to work with our educational communities and local health partners to ensure that our schools remain safe spaces for learning,” Murphy said.