Chicago alderman demands CPS explain COVID-19 dashboard discrepancy

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A Chicago alderman is asking the Chicago Public Schools to explain an alleged discrepancy in its coronavirus dashboard.

Chicago Alderman Brian Hopkins sent a letter to the CPS on Thursday asking it to address an allegation brought by a Chicago resident through a Twitter account that the district was trying to “intentionally deceive parents” through its coronavirus data.

The Twitter account, “CPS COVID-19 Dashboard,” is run by Jakob Ondrey, a Chicago resident whose goal is to visualize the coronavirus cases reported by the CPS. This week, he noticed that there was a discrepancy in the data that began in the midst of the nationwide surge in omicron variant cases, which led Hopkins to step in.

Specifically, the account tweeted that in late December 2021, the number of cases reported by the CPS on the district and school level began to diverge, which was alarming because the two figures always “closely aligned” with each other.

A sign is displayed on the front of the headquarters for Chicago Public Schools on January 05, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. 
(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Hopkins told Fox News Digital that he sent the letter to the CPS because Chicago parents deserve to have access to accurate information regarding the number of coronavirus cases in their child’s school.

If the response raises more questions, Hopkins said he’s going to submit a request for the CPS Office of the Inspector General to investigate.

“You cannot intentionally lie to parents about what’s happening during one of the peak times when Omicron was actually at the time that this timeframe is being alleged,” Hopkins said. “So if it happened, heads need to roll.”

Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez outlines COVID-19 response efforts during a press conference at City Hall last week. At left is Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, Dr. Allison Arwady. 
(Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

In response, the CPS said that the district did make a change in the way coronavirus cases were reported, but denied any wrongdoing.

“First, the CPS COVID-19 data website shows all open reported cases and closed reported cases at the district level. This is consistent with CPS’ publicly-available API. At the school level, our site currently only shows closed reported case,” a spokesperson for the district said.

Open cases, according to the spokesperson, are any possible cases of the coronavirus based on self-reports and in-school testing, but still need to be verified by the district.

A sign on the fence outside of Lowell elementary school welcomes students on January 05, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. 
(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Closed cases as defined by the district only contain coronavirus cases that are “reviewed, verified, and investigated by the Contact Tracing Team.”

The spokesperson said that the CPS changed their method in which cases were tracked on Dec. 20, 2021, in order to protect the privacy of students and staff to only track closed cases on the school level.

“CPS was reporting all school-level open cases on our COVID-19 data website pages until Winter Break. CPS updated the data dashboard Dec. 20, 2021 to switch from all open school-level cases to only closed cases at the school level. This change was made to provide a more accurate number of closed positive and confirmed cases and to protect the privacy of our students and staff, especially in some of our school settings where the case count was very low and there was subsequent speculation about the health status of specific individuals,” the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson said that the district will re-evaluate the data reporting system, and explained their reasoning behind the alleged data discrepancy.

“CPS remains committed to transparency and accurate data to drive our decision making. We also understand that the data shows a large gap between open reported cases and closed reported cases over the last two weeks. This is due to two main factors: a large number of open reported cases coming out of Winter Break, and the fact that with staff and students out of buildings from Jan. 5 – Jan. 12 due to the work stoppage, many cases were rendered inactionable for contact tracing purposes, and contact tracing became even more difficult once the work stoppage concluded and students and staff returned to class,” the spokesperson said.

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