HELENA, Mont. (AP) — About sixty schools in Montana have seen at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 in a student or staff member since the beginning of the school year, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock said Wednesday.
Those include both K-12 schools and universities.
A total of 51 K-12 students have been diagnosed with the virus in the few weeks since the semester started — out of 147,000 students in the state. Numerous schools have had to temporarily close after positive cases were identified to limit the spread of the virus.
“This was not unexpected,” Bullock said but added that transmission has been limited thanks to quick action, including identifying close contacts and testing them.
Bullock said the state will begin releasing weekly reports on COVID-19 cases in schools and universities. The governor said the report would protect student privacy by including only limited information on cases in schools with fewer than 50 students. For schools with 10 or fewer students, there will be no reporting. For schools larger than 50 students, the number of cases and the location of the school will be provided.
The first report was expected to be released Wednesday afternoon.
Montana's Superintendent of Public Instruction opposed the decision to release information on cases in schools, stating it violated students' privacy.
Displaying data for students in Montana's rural schools “will increase the risk of exposing personally identifiable medical information,” she wrote on social media, calling on the governor to reverse his decision.
Montana reported 190 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, as the number of confirmed cases remains high.
More than 9,400 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the state. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because not everyone has been tested and people can be infected with the virus without having symptoms.
The state has reported 141 deaths related to the virus, including 18 in the past six days. One third of the state's reported deaths have been related to assisted care or long term care facilities.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.
Samuels is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.