Goal of transparency drives launch of university dashboard for COVID-19 test results
A safe campus for Hokies is a priority for Virginia Tech. So is transparency in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
As students, faculty, and staff return to Blacksburg for the fall semester, there are a variety of measures in place to manage COVID-19 cases on campus and to mitigate the spread of the disease. One of those measures is an online dashboard, which the university will use to keep the community informed about the number of COVID-19 test results and the number of students in on-campus isolation spaces.
Launched Aug. 19, the dashboard is a central piece of how the university will continue to share regularly about the ongoing management of operations.
“Our comprehensive plan to manage the additional cases expected as the Blacksburg campus is repopulated includes close collaboration with our campus experts and community partners,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “Timely and transparent information will help us work together effectively in support of our ongoing efforts to protect the health and safety of our communities, both on and off campus.”
Students who are living on campus this semester are required to be tested for COVID-19 during move-in, as part of the university’s comprehensive COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and case management plan. Additionally, employees and students are expected to check in via the Hokie Ready app before coming to campus each day, in order to perform a self-check on health symptoms.
Sands provided an update on Virginia Tech’s COVID-19 testing this week.
To ensure an appropriate degree of transparency, the online dashboard will be updated each Monday to report the number of COVID-19 test results – the positive test results and total tests – from the university's Schiffert Health Center, based on the previous week’s information.
The dashboard will also display the number of students who are in isolation on campus as a result of a positive COVID-19 test. The dashboard lists only numbers, not individual identifying information, and it is HIPAA-compliant, said Kevin Foust, associate vice president for safety and security at Virginia Tech.
Also, there are web links listed on the dashboard that direct visitors to the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, where additional information can be found about the impact of COVID-19 in the broader area.
Disclosing information about COVID-19 on campus is important, particularly because it helps people make decisions about visiting Virginia Tech during the pandemic, said Foust. “Because we are a public university, we want people to be informed about our campus,” he said. “We want to make sure that we provide the best information we can so that they can make those informed decisions. It’s designed to help our community understand COVID-19 on our campus.”
Virginia Tech Emergency Management maintains the dashboard. The numbers come from the university’s Schiffert Health Center, which will test students and high-risk employees on a regular basis.
“If the expectation is that this campus and our community will be totally free of COVID-19, that is an unrealistic expectation,” Foust said. “The goal is for us to discover it and mitigate the spread as best as we can. This is one way to help us do that.”