New statewide COVID-19 map aims to help schools

New statewide COVID-19 map aims to help schools

INDIANA (WFIE) - Thursday was the first day of the new county metrics map on the Indiana COVID-19 dashboard. The goal of this new map is to provide more guidance for schools as leaders move through the pandemic.

Similar to other maps on the website, it is color-coded by county. However, each color on this map represents different recommendations for schools from state health officials.

“Basically what it is,” Vanderburgh County Health Department administrator Joe Gries said. “there are a couple different metrics. It’s number of cases per 100,000 within a week, and then also the positivity rate within that week.”

Gries says local health officials communicate with schools almost daily, but he says this new map will help make sure county decision-makers are on the same page. Each color comes with its own set of recommendations - like canceling events or moving to online learning.

See the recommendations for each color below:

"Blue county" recommendations
"Blue county" recommendations (Source: WFIE)
"Yellow county" recommendations
"Yellow county" recommendations (Source: WFIE)
"Orange county" recommendations
"Orange county" recommendations (Source: WFIE)
"Red county" recommendations
"Red county" recommendations (Source: WFIE)

“It’s just another tool to help us understand what’s going on in our community,” Gries said.

These recommendations, however, are only suggestions from the state. For example, Dubois County is listed as the highest risk area of our Indiana counties. Orange represents moderate-to-high community spread. Despite this metric, Shawn Werner with the Dubois County Health Department says what county schools are doing seems to be working, so his schools will continue learning as is.

Meanwhile in Pike County, school officials worry this map could add more confusion for students and staff.

“I think the intent is that it should make it easier,” Dr. Suzanne Blake, superintendent of the Pike County School Corporation said. “It should give schools some direction and some guidance on making those decisions. I’m afraid, however, it’s just going to be another challenge.”

All students in the Pike County School Corporation have transitioned to virtual learning for the rest of the week. This comes after a “significant number” of students and staff were identified as close contacts of COVID-19.

Pike County Schools will move to a hybrid model of learning after the holiday weekend.

”This was a very difficult call,” Dr. Blake said. “We all discussed it quite a bit. I told someone I felt like I lost, and yet I know that we really haven’t lost, because again, overall, our cases are low. I just wanted to be able to stay on green and not ever have to go to yellow or a shutdown. We, according to the map, are still in a very good place, but the reality, as we work through our day-to-day structure, we are definitely feeling a strain.”

This map is available to the public, but health officials want to assure parents - if there is a new case in a school, all close contacts will be notified directly as one of the key steps to stop the spread.

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