As we enter the fourth week of classes, the university continues to evade students’ calls to increase their transparency surrounding COVID-19 cases on campus. We believe this has led to a rise in complacency amongst students and as a result, a rise in confirmed positive cases.
The university proudly displays our “Yellow: New Normal Campus Operations” status via signage across campus and on the online dashboard. Yes, the university is currently managing cases, but if they continue to rise at the current rate, our campus may transition to Orange sooner than we think. Rather than celebrate our current status, which has arguably encouraged a false sense of security, the university should thoughtfully highlight the threat of Orange as a realistic possibility so students can better evaluate the significance of their actions.
In the world of COVID-19, actions have direct and immediate ramifications. This week, University Police documented, as part of a weekly report exclusively sent to the Old Gold & Black, that there were two large off-campus parties this weekend, one which had approximately 150 to 200 people. The idea that students would and did gather in such large numbers points to a flaw in the university’s messaging and execution of its policies. Students need to be made aware of these events, the conduct process they will endure and the consequences they will receive in order to make clear how dangerous and insensitive these gatherings can be.
Despite numerous pieces our staff has written regarding the need for the university to update the dashboard, only one major release of changes has been made. Those changes, to separately identify cases from the most recent two weeks and compare them to cases since Aug. 17 and isolate cases for staff and students, have raised eyebrows and given students a more realistic picture of the current situation. However, more action is needed.
The university retroactively updates the dashboard based on the day the student or faculty member took their test rather than the day the university receives word of their positive result. This method creates unnecessary delays and does not allow students to see the increase in cases in real time. It only seems logical to update the dashboard based on when new positive cases are detected. Further, the university has been extremely unclear in outlining a positivity rate (read more on page 1). This number should be presented to students alongside the total number of tests administered, including those not given by the university.
Arguably as important and still missing from the dashboard is the number of available rooms in the Best Western, the university’s designated quarantine hotel. This would clearly be one of the university’s metrics in deciding whether or not to keep campus open. This is also a way for students to gauge the capacity of the university to handle new cases, which will be critical if cases continue to rise exponentially. This is not the time for bureaucracy to take its course. The efficient delivery of this information is essential in guaranteeing the health and safety of students.
As the university has promised that the dashboard will be updated with further testing data and the number of hospitalizations, it seems we are all waiting like a captive audience. So, rather than announcing that updates are “coming soon,” they could simply make these changes and notify the community after they have been swiftly executed.