Improve the COVID-19 Dashboard at Valparaiso University

Improve the COVID-19 Dashboard at Valparaiso University

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Justin McClain started this petition to Director of the Health Center Kelley Eshenaur and

It is the end of week 7 of classes and Valparaiso University's current COVID-19 dashboard (found on https://www.valpo.edu/looking-forward/) is still severely lacking data that should be reported to the public. This should be alarming to students, faculty, staff, parents, and the Valparaiso community. By only including the number of active cases on Valpo's campus in a big number at the top of the dashboard and a longitudinal chart that shows new active cases, Valparaiso University is misleading the public about the status of COVID-19 on campus. Why is it misleading? What we fail to see with those numbers is how many tests, if any, were performed between each update, how many students are in quarantine and/or awaiting test results, and how many total cases have been reported. Publishing the data in this misleading way may cause students to become more laxed with their personal safety measures and less likely to follow safety guidelines (mask mandates, capacity limits, and physical distancing) set forth by the university. This only further jeopardizes the health and safety of the campus and Valparaiso community. For instance, if the dashboard says there are 2 active cases on campus, students may feel as though they are safe to congregate in larger groups and not wear masks since there are "only" 2 active cases. In reality, those 2 cases came into contact with other students, faculty, and staff at the university, and each person they came into contact with could be an undetected case of COVID-19 on campus.

The data points that must be added to the dashboard are total case count, total/new tests given, total/new test results received, number of people in quarantine, and percentage of quarantine spaces available. 

Total case count allows the public to see the bigger picture of COVID-19 on campus without having to add up the cases on the graph. Removing the barrier of addition gives the public quicker access to this important data point.

Total/new tests given and total/new test results received allows the public to see if a low case count is due to a lack of testing or a true representation of COVID-19 on campus. If a low case count is due to low testing, there is a big chance for undetected cases (especially since 40-45% of cases are asymptomatic which means those people would not know to get tested). There have already been days with no new active cases. Was that because no tests were performed or because all the tests came back negative?

Number of people in quarantine allows the public to see how many potential cases of COVID-19 on campus there are and get a better sense of how many people on campus have been exposed.

Percentage of quarantine spaces available shows the public how capable Valparaiso University is at controlling a future outbreak.

All of this data should be readily available and easy to publish. It only takes typing the data on the webpage. COVID-19 is unprecedented. A transparent dashboard is not. Many other universities are providing this data, so it is not unheard of for universities to have this level of transparency with the public. 

If Valparaiso University is truly doing as well as the administration continues to say, they must publish the data to back-up the claim. It is not right to tell the students, faculty, and staff that Valparaiso University is doing better than other universities without proving it with the data.

After signing this petition, I encourage you to also email the following people demanding that they improve the dashboard to include the data points previously mentioned:

Director of the Health Center Kelley Eshenaur - Kelley.Eshenaur@valpo.edu

Vice President Rick AmRhein - Rick.AmRhein@valpo.edu

Interim Provost Rick Gillman - Rick.Gillman@valpo.edu

Interim President Colette Irwin-Knott - Colette.Irwin-Knott@valpo.edu

There are other issues with Valpo's COVID-19 response like subpar surveillance, contradictory policies, lack of policy enforcement, and utter disregard for providing informative, effective updates to the campus community, but updating the dashboard is the easiest way to quell some of the anxieties and rumors on campus. Unlike increasing testing and other improvements, updating the dashboard is free! This is the first step I would like to see taken toward improving Valpo's COVID-19 response. 

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