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Local, national media exaggerate claims of Cullman County school absences to suggest post-Trump rally COVID ‘surge’ to blame

Prior to former President Donald Trump’s arrival for the event staged by the Alabama Republican Party at York Family Farms near Cullman, both local and national media outlets forewarned of the event as a potential “superspreader.”

In a tell that the media were almost too eager for their prediction to come true, outlets ran headlines proclaiming, “One third of Cullman Alabama school district students absent due to COVID surge.”

Upon further review of the actual numbers offered by local school officials, the problem is that that is not the case.

A report from Mobile NBC affiliate WPMI cites left-wing blog RawStory to bolster the claim made in its headline.

“According to news outlet RawStory, ‘one-third of students at the district’s 29 campuses were reported absent due to a positive COVID test or contact tracing,'” WPMI’s Darwin Singleton wrote.

Singleton’s story, which emphasizes the Trump event weeks earlier, links to the RawStory report, which links to a Cullman County Board of Education (CCBOE) release, which RawStory apparently misinterpreted.

“The Cullman County school district announced Wednesday that the five schools will switch to remote learning from Aug. 27 through Sept. 10, saying that one-third of students at the district’s 29 campuses were reported absent due to a positive COVID test or contact tracing,” RawStory’s John Wright wrote.

A closer review of the school system’s website reveals an actual one-third number of positive COVID tests or close contact with a positive-tested individual is of five of Cullman County school system’s 29 campuses.

According to a local official with Cullman County schools, only “about 10%” were out countywide with some COVID-related issue.

The number was much lower for Cullman City Schools, with 2.81% of students absent on Tuesday due to a positive test and 4.61% of those absent due to COVID exposure.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.