Experts in public health data said the University’s COVID-19 tracking dashboard will help students and officials make informed decisions about how to handle the pandemic.
The dashboard, which was released last week, will provide daily updates on the 4,000 on-campus community members who are required to be tested weekly, the dashboard’s website states. Officials said in a release that they hope the dashboard will “ensure transparency” as they start to discuss if and when students can return to campus.
The dashboard uses interactive bar chart graphics to display daily total administered tests, daily total positives and seven-day positive rates as well as a breakdown into student and employee results, reason for getting tested and affiliated campus. Milken Institute School of Public Health researchers developed the University’s diagnostic tests, which will be processed in an on-campus public health lab, the website states.
“We are continuing to gather information about the current spread of the virus and projections about its trajectory – both in the D.C. region and nationally – and how these factors and any local government limitations will affect our operations next semester,” University President Thomas LeBlanc said in the release.
As of Sunday, the dashboard showed 10 positive cases after testing 9,453 community members.
Health experts said releasing COVID-19 data in an understandable way is crucial for officials to maintain trust between them and the community they’re guiding through the pandemic.
Kasisomayajula Viswanath, a professor of health communication at Harvard University, said college campuses should release testing data to promote informed decision-making on how to operate during the pandemic. He said the surrounding residents of a city college campus are an equally relevant audience for this data because they interact with students in their community.
Foggy Bottom community members voiced concerns last month that off-campus students’ return to the neighborhood could put Foggy Bottom’s elderly community at risk of contracting the virus. Some members of a fraternity also contracted the virus after attending an off-campus party earlier this month.
“It is essential for them to know how safe it is to enter the buildings, not enter the buildings, attend in our classes and not attend classes, open the restaurants and not open the restaurants,” Viswanath said. “All these decisions will depend upon the information they get.”
Viswanath said public health communication during emergencies depends on “three principles of transparency, trust and credibility.”
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Miranda Nazzaro, 9/20/20.