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McCormick: Privacy Concerns From Parents Make Contact Tracing In Schools Difficult

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Indiana schools are reopening for the new academic year, with some reporting cases of COVID-19 among staff or students, and the state's top school official says efforts to find people who have potentially been exposed to the coronavirus is proving difficult.

Indiana is investing millions of dollars in contact tracing, and health experts say it can help isolate and reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

But schools are reporting challenges with that process. Namely, parents who are skeptical of sharing information about their children with strangers over the phone. 

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said her department has received reports from school leaders that parents aren't responding to contract tracers' phone calls. 

"And the parents usually hang up, and call the school and say 'I just got a weird call, I'm not sure who it was. I'm not sure if it was legit,'" she said. 

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McCormick said even when contact tracers identify themselves, families are unsure of how much information they can safely relay to them. 

"They're worried about the legitimacy of who's on that call and who's going to start taking advantage of those calls – for what purposes. They're worried about where that's going to lead to," she said.

More than 30 schools have chosen to begin the new school year virtually, while others have delayed the start of the school year. 

READ MORE: State Launches COVID-19 Help Hotline For Schools

State Health Commissioner Kris Box emphasized this week that people should stay home if they have symptoms. She added parents should also keep their children home if they are waiting for their COVID-19 test results.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.

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