Beaufort Co. School District explains why their COVID-19 case count is different from DHEC

Beaufort Co. School District explains why their COVID-19 case count is different from DHEC
Empty school classroom. (Source: Pixabay)

BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - It’s been one month since the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control started reporting the number of COVID-19 cases in South Carolina school districts. But the Beaufort County School District says those numbers aren’t always up to date.

“We’ve got a regular, a real day to day number, because of the information we can get daily," said Nursing Coordinator Denise Unruh.

Listing all of the COVID-19 cases at every school in the state means DHEC has to crunch a lot of numbers. But those numbers don’t always match the ones schools list.

DHEC is currently listing three Beaufort County schools that have cases. The school district, however, is reporting five schools with cases plus two other school facilities with cases.

DHEC does not list cases at those extra facilities, like admin offices, that are not in a school.

Right now, DHEC’s list of COVID-19 cases associated with school openings list five or less cases at Beaufort High School, five or less cases at Hilton Head Elementary School, and 10 or less cases at Hilton Head High School. But that’s not exactly accurate.

The school district says they report all cases to DHEC as soon as they learn about them.

“When we get a student in with symptoms or we find out they are close contact, we are calling the parents immediately, we are talking with them, we are going over all the DHEC recommendations, we are explaining quarantining, if they’re close contact, if they are positive, isolation.”

But while DHEC is updating numbers twice a week, the schools have a daily tally.

“We’ve got a system in our nursing documentation program that we are putting all the students that are in the quarantine that are going to be out, and we put that in on a daily basis. So we can share that with the administration at each school.”

Additionally, DHEC only counts cases in students who are attending classes in person. The school district counts in person and virtual learners.

DHEC did not have anyone available for an interview to discuss the reporting process, but did send a statement explaining how they work with the schools that says, in part: “If there is an association with the school, DHEC will reach out to the school to confirm close contacts and determine the appropriate course of action.”

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