The state is declining to release school-specific COVID-19 outbreak data to the public weeks after Gov. Bill Lee said his administration was working on a plan to gather and disseminate the information.
Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey initially said the administration was not going to keep track of outbreaks within schools and would instead rely on individual school districts to keep track and inform their local communities. Later on, Piercey said that what she said had been misconstrued and that the health department would have school districts report directly to the state.
On Tuesday. Piercey and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn cited FERPA and HIPAA, privacy laws covering identifiable student and patient information, in deciding not to publicly release the number of cases identified in any one school. Despite this legal position of the state, school districts have already published said data on their public websites. The Tennesseean is now tracking that data in a database.
The back-and-forth between tracking the outbreaks and publicly releasing the data has been one of various attempts by the state to shield information they deem sensitive to individual privacy from public view.
Piercey initially cited HIPAA to justify not releasing county-level case information or report nursing home outbreaks, both of which are publicly reported now.