NORWALK — The city’s public schools have seen dozens of coronavirus cases that have quarantined nearly 600 people since classes resumed last month, officials said Tuesday.

Norwalk Public Schools officials announced during the Board of Education meeting a new COVID-19 dashboard has been launched on the district website. The dashboard will include weekly updates on the number of active COVID cases, a tally of the total cases, number of people who have been asked to quarantine and the schools that have been affected.

Brenda Wilcox Williams, a spokeswoman for the district, said the purpose of dashboard is to address the questions parents have been raising.

“We were starting to ramp up with a number of different cases over a day or a week,” she said. “We wanted to ensure we had all this information available so the entire community could have transparency.”

The data shows new cases from Oct. 12 and includes the 22 infections diagnosed in the last week that have affected five schools and quarantined 246 people. The dashboard also shows 576 people across 17 Norwalk schools have been asked to quarantine at some point this year from exposure to 32 confirmed cases.

Wilcox Williams said affected school communities will still receive notifications when there are infections and this will not replace those communications.

“We’ll keep people apprised of what’s going on,” she said. “But we’re not causing people undue stress.”

Superintendent Alexandra Estrella said 10 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday, including several from Brien McMahon High School where health officials found social gatherings were responsible for an outbreak. The cases have caused the building to be closed until Nov. 2, while students and staff participate in online learning.

Joanne Malinowski, health services coordinator for the district, explained there’s often a lag in reporting cases due to the time it takes to get results and for the city’s schools to be notified about cases from Norwalk Health Department.

“There were over 500 tests done this weekend at Stepping Stones Museum and Norwalk Community College,” Malinowski said, citing free testing events done over the weekend. “They don’t have all those results yet ... then the health department may not get those positive results until two, three days later. It’s happening not just with our health department. It’s all over the place.”

Once the district receives information on confirmed cases from the health department, usually at the end of the day, officials begin the contact tracing process.

The schools and the health department have teamed up to conduct contact tracing, which involves determining where the infected person was and consulting with principals and staff for information about who came in contact with the individual, and whether the person took the bus, participated in extracurricular activities and what the person did for lunch. Everyone who came in contact with the person is then notified of the exposure.

District officials have previously said that anyone within 6 feet of the infected person for at least 15 minutes starting two days from the time the individual began experiencing symptoms or received a positive test result is considered a close contact.

Board of Education member Erica DePalma questioned whether the schools could use text messages to notify parents since some don’t answer the phone and require a call back.

However, Malinowski said parents would need to agree to receive text messages from the district and phone calls would allow them to ask follow-up questions.

Many parents are often concerned about whether everyone in their house also needs to quarantine, Malinowski said. The answer to that question is no, unless the quarantined student or someone else in the house becomes symptomatic, she said.

Malinowski said some parents have notified the schools if their child tested positive, which can help speed up the contact tracing process. In some cases, the district may have a school switch to virtual learning for the day if officials need more time to contact trace or clean the building.

“As you can imagine with McMahon, there’s a few hundred people that were contacted,” Malinowski said. “We want to try to get in there as soon as possible to make sure all these kids are safe. We don’t want them to go to school if they’ve obviously been exposed.”

Given the situation at McMahon, the board considered reaching out to parents to reiterate that children who socialize together after school follow the same safety guidelines they do while in the building to help avoid further spread.

“From what I’ve seen, it’s more community spread,” Malinowski said. “All of our mitigating measures are working and I feel very confident with that … but we have an uptick.”

erin.kayata@hearstmediact.com