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Indiana Daily Student

EDITORIAL: IU, make the COVID-19 data public. Our health depends on it.

Tulips bloom at sunrise April 21 in front of the Sample Gates.
Tulips bloom at sunrise April 21 in front of the Sample Gates.

Are we in a public health crisis?

Is this an emergency?

Or are we just seeing a spike in cases of the coronavirus?

We don’t know because IU won’t make its data public.

Dr. Cole Beeler, director of symptomatic testing, said IU looks at 16 to 20 metrics to decide if classes can be held safely in person.

Despite this, just a handful of the metrics are publicly available. The public can only see the number of cases, the positivity rate and the number of tests conducted.

The university recommended today that greek houses shut down after the Monroe County Health Department required at least 30 houses to quarantine. Director of Mitigation Testing Dr. Aaron Carroll said students living in greek houses had a 20% positivity rate — more than double the 8.1% positivity rate from last week.

During this crisis, students, faculty and staff need more transparency from IU, not less. We are calling on IU to do three things: Make its full dashboard public, update the dashboard daily and provide the number of available quarantine beds.

IU must make its full dashboard public

In emails and social media posts, IU officials have repeatedly stressed the importance of contact tracing. How successful has it been?

The university sends its tests to labs elsewhere to be analyzed. How quickly is the lab able to turn these test results around?

People with COVID-19 and their close contacts are required to quarantine or isolate themselves. How much of the campus population is currently required to quarantine? 

There are 16 to 20 metrics that university health officials look at. What are they? We have a right to know.

The dashboard must be updated daily

IU’s dashboard says it is updated weekly. That’s not good enough. We’ve seen since campus closed originally in March that this pandemic is fast-moving and ever-changing.

“We have a bunch of metrics that we are following. I know there has been some criticism of the public website in terms of how frequently it is updated," Dr. Anthony Gardner, director of contact tracing, said in an interview for a different story. "The goal there was really, and again this is higher ups making these decisions, to provide numbers that are put in context.”

If IU officials can see this data, why can’t we?

Why can’t instructors — who may be at an elevated risk — who come to class to teach know what’s going on? Why can’t students know? Why can’t staff members know?

IU must provide the number of available quarantine beds

Students who live in residence halls are allowed to quarantine in Ashton Residence Center. How many beds are currently available to students who need to use them?

When will the space run out? What will happen to people who need to quarantine but don’t have a place to go?

“Right now, there are people on social media posting about how irresponsible students are going to force us all back online,” IU President Michael McRobbie wrote in an email Aug. 20. “They think it is inevitable. Prove them wrong.”

By calling students back for the semester, the university bears much responsibility for the containment of COVID-19 on campus. IU has asked a lot of its students, faculty and staff — rightfully so if this semester is to be successful — but the university must also realize its own role. 

If our community is to stay safe, this information must be readily available to the public. Otherwise, we fear the situation will continue to get worse.

How you choose to disclose data matters — and it matters greatly. Right now, there are people on social media posting about how irresponsible universities don’t have the resources to manage an outbreak on campus. They think it is inevitable.

Prove them wrong. 

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correct the name spelling of Dr. Cole Beeler. The IDS regrets this error.

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