Universities with an in-person component, such as the University of Notre Dame and the University of Florida, have released online dashboards that provide information on the number of students and employees tested for COVID-19 and how many people of those tested positive.
Dr. Aaron Carroll, IU’s Director of Surveillance and Mitigation for the COVID-19 pandemic, says IU’s plans for a similar dashboard are currently in development.
Notre Dame’s case numbers spiked in recent days, with the school’s number of cases reaching 304 as of Aug. 19, according to the school's dashboard. The school announced on Aug. 18 that students will move to a remote learning model for the next two weeks and then reassess. Kara Clouse, a freshman at Notre Dame, said that it’s the talk of the campus.
“People are talking about COVID all the time,” Clouse said. “It’s kind of hard to ignore. It felt like everyone on campus was watching (Notre Dame’s) announcement video about moving to remote learning.”
IU is testing all students living on campus, but that data has not yet been released. This reality concerns IU parent William Ryan, whose daughter is a freshman.
“As a parent, I am absolutely terrified,” Ryan said. “I think they have done a great job of sharing with us the plans. But now that everybody is showing up, we’re past planning. Now we are into practice. You were great about telling us the plans. Now tell us how it’s actually being applied.”
While there is not a defined release date for the dashboard, it will include the data from the antigen tests that students took when they arrived to campus and the saliva tests that the university will give throughout the year, Carroll said.
“The biggest thing that people have to prepare themselves for is that there will be positives,” he said. “The background prevalence in Indiana is, let’s say, 1%. If I get 10,000 people together, that means 100 of them are positive. We have to be prepared for positive cases. We can’t react to positive cases as a failure of the system.”
The University of North Carolina reported a large outbreak last week, with 130 students testing positive over the span of seven days. With as little as 5.5% of their quarantine rooms vacant in the week after the outbreak, undergraduate students returned to a remote learning format, according to their dashboard earlier this week.
“UNC decided that they did not want to do on-arrival testing,” Carroll said. “They did not want to do asymptomatic testing. They were very much heavily relying on symptomatic testing. That’s not how we are doing things. I would argue that I think we are taking a different path than UNC did, and hopefully, it will yield better results.”
Carroll reiterated his belief that in-person classes at IU will be safe.
“Nobody is not concerned,” he said. “A lot of places are shutting it down and going all online. I am firmly convinced that classes will be one of the safest places students will be spending time. We can keep those rules strict. It’s what happens outside of the classes that will make this difficult.”