COVID-19 dashboard improvements mark important step forward for transparency

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GRAPHIC BY DAVID SOLINKSY / THE FLAT HAT

There was no shortage of contentious situations on the campus of the College of William and Mary this semester, from the shaky reopening to the suspension of Tribe Athletics. Despite everyone’s best efforts, the number of cases on campus has been slightly increasing over the past few weeks. One would think that the College’s COVID-19 dashboard would give some students peace of mind, as they are able to check up on the number of positive cases on campus.

Instead, many students began noticing that there were some suspicious things popping up on the dashboard. No one could make sense of the it, creating panic among students; they were right to be worried. Until recently, there was no distinction between the total cases since August and the number of active cases on campus. Furthermore, students noticed odd changes to the pre-arrival positives and fluctuations in the numbers, even after all students arrived on campus. The number of cases never went down, despite the fact that many positive students had recovered from COVID-19.

“Until recently, there was no distinction between the total cases since August and the number of active cases on campus. Furthermore, students noticed odd changes to the pre-arrival positives and fluctuations in the numbers, even after all students arrived on campus. The number of cases never went down, despite the fact that many positive students had recovered from COVID-19.”

The recent outbreak among the football players begs the question: what will happen if a future, and possibly worse, outbreak occurs? The school hasn’t been very clear about what its next steps will be, or even what would require a campus shutdown to occur. With the end of the semester finally approaching, it is imperative that everyone, including the administration, stay vigilant. The College needs to be more transparent about the next steps during the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters, should conditions on campus look similar come next January.

Thankfully, the College has started listening to student concerns and has updated the COVID-19 dashboard. Now, instead of a confusing set of numbers, there is a clear distinction between the number of active cases and recovered cases.

If there happens to be another outbreak, the College needs to make clear what its steps for responding would be. Rumors are flying around that dining halls may be closed, students may be isolated in their dorms or that campus will shut down if another outbreak occurs, causing panic among students. No one can accurately predict what will happen in the near future because every day there’s a new update on active cases and new problems to overcome.

All students want is for the College to be honest about what is going on behind the scenes and what its plans are for the future. If they really want to keep students on campus for the rest of the semester, they can’t take any chances. Outbreak plans need to be publicized and prepped, the College’s COVID-19 dashboard needs to be more transparent and students need to continue to do their part on campus.

Email Abby Paras at eaparas@email.wm.edu.