Enrich your school’s COVID-19 forecast with self-reporting data

June 01 2022

It’s exciting that more and more families are testing for COVID-19 at home, but there is a catch: public leaders (and by extension, all of us) rarely have insight into that testing data. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that only 16% of positive cases in the U.S. are being reported, and case rates could be 6x higher than we think.

Leaving so many positive cases unreported is like asking a meteorologist to predict the weather using only 16% of their radars and satellites. Collecting all available COVID-19 test results—no matter where they’re taken—creates a more accurate “weather map” for surges that public health leaders can use to help make more informed public health decisions. 

Secure self-reporting of third-party test results can be the ideal complement to any K-12 testing program. In times of extremely low prevalence, it could even replace on-site testing altogether. We’ve added it as a feature to our testing portal to capture more insights and allow schools to make more informed public health decisions. School leaders face a lot of tough questions like the ones below—our self-reporting portal feature could help.

1. What’s the risk of returning to in-person learning after holidays or breaks? 

Some of the biggest spikes we’ve seen in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths were smack dab in the middle of back-to-school season for the 2021-2022 school year, and then again during the return from the holidays in January 2022. With lots of family travel expected this summer, your community could lower the risk of history repeating itself by having students and staff test before school starts this fall. It won’t be long until there are other breaks, such as Labor Day, where self-reporting data could be useful. 

2. Who may come to school under local test-to-stay and test-to-return guidelines?

Self-reporting takes the onus off schools to administer every single test in a test-to-stay or test-to-return program. In test-to-return strategies, self-reporting also helps schools know when infected students and staff should stay away from campus and when it is appropriate for them to return.

3. Do we feel comfortable hosting sports, performances, or other large events?

Crowds rallying together can be a potent morale booster. There’s also a risk they could turn into superspreader events. Self-reporting ahead of events adds a layer of security so that, when school leaders decide the risk of an outbreak is too high, they can take action by setting restrictions or rescheduling events. While reducing crowds or changing dates isn’t always ideal, it can help keep sports seasons and theater productions alive for the long haul.

4. Are we seeing symptoms of COVID-19, or something else?

Isn’t it amazing how hearing a tiny sniffle can make the hair on your neck stand up? But with the flu, allergies, and the common cold sharing so many symptoms with COVID-19, not every symptom is cause for major concern. When students report negative results to the school, staff can rest easier knowing that COVID-19 is less likely to be lurking behind that cough.

5. How high is the risk of exposure for unvaccinated staff?

Not everyone working in a school may be vaccinated. Understanding the risk of potential exposure could be especially important for anyone without this extra mitigation layer. Self-reporting data can help schools track the level of community spread of COVID-19 and when it may be particularly risky for unvaccinated staff to work on campus. 

Every reported result helps clarify the COVID forecast

When you’re tracking COVID-19 in schools, nothing beats accurate, secure, and accessible data. Bringing self-reporting into our testing portal helps to increase the insights school leaders use to make pivotal decisions. If you’re interested in adding the feature to your school’s program, please let us know.