State officials in Vermont are no longer gathering or publishing the number of Covid-19 cases detected in schools.

In response to questions from VTDigger, Department of Health spokesperson Ben Truman confirmed Tuesday that the state will no longer maintain its list of such cases, which was previously updated weekly.

The data was last updated Jan. 10.

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The change comes as the state Agency of Education is urging schools to shift to a new Covid testing model, called “test at home,” in which parents will be responsible for testing their children for Covid-19.

“With the shift to Test at Home, schools are no longer doing contact tracing,” Truman said in an email. “This means we will not have data on which cases were at a K-12 learning community location while infectious.”

Vermont will begin publishing a “pediatric cases data brief,” Truman said, which would break down Covid cases by age group, but not school or district. Health department officials already report data on pediatric cases, and the brief is “based on our case data,” according to another health department spokesperson, Katie Warchut.

The shift in data collection protocols is part of a major shift in how Vermont schools handle Covid cases.

Previously, the state recommended a program called “test to stay,” in which school officials administered rapid tests to students before classes and reported positive Covid cases to the state.

Health department officials used that data to publish a list of all schools’ reported infectious Covid cases.

But that data often lagged behind the numbers recorded by local school staff.

And, with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, officials expected the numbers to “lose some of their currency,” Education Secretary Dan French said at a press conference last month.

Now, it will fall to parents to test their children for Covid-19 and report positives to the state using an online form.

As recently as two weeks ago, French said that state officials had not yet determined how best to handle Covid data in schools, given the new guidance. But at a press conference Jan. 11, French said that the expected shift in focus would have a significant impact on the collection of those numbers.

“We’ll lose control of that data in exchange for having more broadly distributed tests in the public,” he said.

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