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CPS failed to disclose a switch in its COVID-19 reporting

Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez at a news conference
Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez at a news conference on January 4, 2022. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Chicago Public Schools changed the way it reports COVID-19 cases at individual schools, but did not disclose it, resulting in parents getting an undercount of positive cases in the school their child attends.

The change during winter break was implemented at the time the omicron surge was taking hold, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the school district were trying to convince parents it was safe to send their children back to school. CPS insists the change was not meant to mislead.

On its COVID tracker web page, CPS was reporting data on cases district-wide and school-by-school that, according to the district, still needed to be confirmed. But on Dec. 20, in the winter break, CPS began reporting only closed cases — those that have been verified by a contact tracing team — at the school level.

Though CPS continued to include the larger number of open and closed cases in the district total, parents no longer were seeing the additional open cases at their individual school. This painted an imprecise picture for families.

Read more: Chicago Public Schools failed to notify families about a significant change in its COVID-19 reporting