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CMS Says Its First COVID-19 Dashboard May Be Confusing

New CMS COVID-19 case report posted Monday.

Some people were skeptical when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reported Monday that it had only one case of COVID-19 among 145,616 students.

On Tuesday, after WFAE asked repeatedly how the district was tallying cases, Communications Chief Patrick Smith said it's really one case out of approximately 1,100 students who reported in person last week.

Smith said CMS first decided to list the total for all students enrolled -- including about 144,500 who aren't being monitored because they're learning remotely -- so it wouldn't have to keep adjusting the total as students return on a phased-in schedule.

"What we found is it was a little confusing to not just directly state the number of students back in person, because that's all we can and will monitor," he said Tuesday.

He said when CMS posts this week's tally on this upcoming Monday it will list only the total number of students attending in person.

CMS began the school year with all students learning remotely. It posted its first "Back To School Metrics Dashboard" Monday after students with disabilities who are in self-contained schools or classrooms came back Sept. 29.

Smith said the weekly report tallying seven COVID-19 cases among about 19,100 employees is accurate because the district keeps track of all employees, even those who are working from home.

The state reports COVID-19 clusters when a school or child-care facility has five or more cases that appear to be linked to that site. Several districts, including Gaston, Union and Iredell-Statesville schools, report smaller numbers of cases and break them out by school.

Smith says CMS decided not to report by school yet because some special-education classrooms have such small numbers of students that identifying the school could violate student privacy. He said school-by-school lists may begin as early as next week, when prekindergarten students will return in person.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.