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Public health faculty, staff create COVID-19 surveillance tool for schools

The Ohio State University and WSYX/WTTE |

A kindergartner develops a sore throat, so he visits the school nurse. A teacher and two students at the middle school next door call in sick with fevers. Across town, a second grader at another elementary school in the district goes home after a bad cough sets in.

All this information is entered into a system called the COVID-19 Analytics and Targeted Surveillance System (CATS), monitored by staff throughout the school district and the local public health department for signs of coronavirus outbreaks.

By tracking possible signs of COVID-19 infection — like school absences and nurse visits for COVID-like symptoms — CATS can serve as an early warning system for case clusters, said Ayaz Hyder, the public health professor who spearheaded the project.

Rapid interest in CATS from other schools led to a contract from the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio to implement the system in districts throughout the region, said Anne Trinh, senior program manager at the College of Public Health’s Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Evaluation Studies, or HOPES.

CATS is now being used in 10 K-12 school districts in central Ohio, with as many more waiting to be onboarded.

Upper Arlington, Dublin, Grandview Heights, Westerville, New Albany, Whitehall, Worthington, Bexley and Groveport Madison school districts have also started using CATS, said Trinh, who’s been leading the onboarding process and managing the project, which is funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.