Project Title

Surveillance of COVID-19 in Two Northeast Tennessee School Districts

Authors' Affiliations

Justin Kearley, Center for Rural Health Research, College of Public Health, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN. Dr. Megan Quinn, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN. Amy Wahlquist, Center for Rural Health Research, College of Public Health, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN. Nicole Galler, Center for Rural Health Research, College of Public Health, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN. Matthew Beer, Center for Rural Health Research, College of Public Health, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN. Dr. Sam Pettyjohn, Center for Rural Health Research, College of Public Health, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN.

Location

Culp Ballroom

Start Date

4-7-2022 9:00 AM

End Date

4-7-2022 12:00 PM

Poster Number

83

Faculty Sponsor’s Department

Other - please list

Center for Rural Health Research, College of Public Health

Name of Project's Faculty Sponsor

Sam Pettyjohn

Additional Sponsors

Dr. Megan Quinn, Amy Wahlquist

Classification of First Author

Graduate Student-Master’s

Competition Type

Competitive

Type

Poster Presentation

Project's Category

Communicable Diseases, School Health, Rural Health

Abstract or Artist's Statement

Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the health of the Appalachian Highlands region. As of March 7, 2022, in the 21-county Ballad Health System catchment area in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, there have been 179,130 cases and 2,389 deaths due to COVID-19 since March 1, 2021. This has caused significant strain on the local healthcare system and health workforce across our region. To our knowledge, there is limited data around school surveillance techniques within the Appalachian region. This study aims to bridge that gap and provide a framework for school systems and local public health agencies to employ surveillance techniques to monitor COVID-19 infections and communicate data and evidence-based strategies to guide policy decisions.

Methods: In the fall 2021 semester, The College of Public Health’s Center for Rural Health Research (CRHR) began to monitor COVID-19 cases and quarantining in Washington County and Johnson City School Districts through publicly available data sourced directly from school district websites. The research team created epidemiologic curves tracking cases, quarantines, and changes in trends. In response to increased COVID-19 cases at the beginning of the fall 2021 semester, both Johnson City and Washington County Schools implemented policy changes including an opt-out mask mandate to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within their respective school systems. The CRHR team has continued to actively monitor data from both school systems for the 2021-2022 school year. Reports are sent to the school board on a weekly basis summarizing trends and providing evidence-based guidance as needed.

Results/ Conclusion: Surveillance is an evidence-based tool essential in the protection of population health. It is especially important in protecting vulnerable groups like school-aged youth. By communicating data with school boards, the research team has been able to cultivate relationships with local stakeholders, impact population health within schools, and boost surveillance capabilities of both districts. Adequate surveillance performed by local public health may help schools to make informed decisions as they work to protect the overall health and well-being of the youth and families they serve.

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Apr 7th, 9:00 AM Apr 7th, 12:00 PM

Surveillance of COVID-19 in Two Northeast Tennessee School Districts

Culp Ballroom

Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the health of the Appalachian Highlands region. As of March 7, 2022, in the 21-county Ballad Health System catchment area in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, there have been 179,130 cases and 2,389 deaths due to COVID-19 since March 1, 2021. This has caused significant strain on the local healthcare system and health workforce across our region. To our knowledge, there is limited data around school surveillance techniques within the Appalachian region. This study aims to bridge that gap and provide a framework for school systems and local public health agencies to employ surveillance techniques to monitor COVID-19 infections and communicate data and evidence-based strategies to guide policy decisions.

Methods: In the fall 2021 semester, The College of Public Health’s Center for Rural Health Research (CRHR) began to monitor COVID-19 cases and quarantining in Washington County and Johnson City School Districts through publicly available data sourced directly from school district websites. The research team created epidemiologic curves tracking cases, quarantines, and changes in trends. In response to increased COVID-19 cases at the beginning of the fall 2021 semester, both Johnson City and Washington County Schools implemented policy changes including an opt-out mask mandate to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within their respective school systems. The CRHR team has continued to actively monitor data from both school systems for the 2021-2022 school year. Reports are sent to the school board on a weekly basis summarizing trends and providing evidence-based guidance as needed.

Results/ Conclusion: Surveillance is an evidence-based tool essential in the protection of population health. It is especially important in protecting vulnerable groups like school-aged youth. By communicating data with school boards, the research team has been able to cultivate relationships with local stakeholders, impact population health within schools, and boost surveillance capabilities of both districts. Adequate surveillance performed by local public health may help schools to make informed decisions as they work to protect the overall health and well-being of the youth and families they serve.