October 13, 2020

U of L’s COVID-19 dashboard doesn’t help students

By Zachary Baker-

COVID-19 has shaken our way of life for months and it is continuing to spread even as we hope to move back to some sense of normalcy. For University of Louisville students, and college students across the country, they hope to make informed decisions about being on campus in order to stay safe and protected while furthering their education. 

Unfortunately, it has proven difficult to do so at U of L due to the university’s suspicious communications about its COVID-19 test results. 

At the beginning of the semester, the university said that the administration will be following CDC federal recommendations

Among these recommendations that the administration references, is that mandatory mass testing is not recommended for identifying and preventing the spread of the disease. Instead of mandatory testing, the university would allow for anyone to get tested at will on campus. 

For almost two weeks the university upheld this before suddenly changing their minds and requiring mandatory testing for all students, faculty and staff who frequent campus. The shift by the university came as a surprise, as everyone who had gotten tested previously had to get tested again.

On top of this, the university had promised to update a COVID-19 tracking dashboard regularly to keep students informed. This dashboard does not show active cases or individual people tested but rather total tests completed. 

U of L’s positivity rate is between 2-5% whereas Jefferson County’s rate was 7-10%. It might seem that U of L is doing a great job at preventing the spread of the disease. 

Joshua Pinkston, an economics professor at U of L, has done research into the effects of mandates on the spread of COVID-19. He said when you look at the number of new cases per day on a per capita basis, U of L might not be doing as good with COVID-19 as they say. 

“U of L is clearly doing worse than Jefferson County as a whole,” said Pinkston. 

“The average number of new cases per day per 100,000 over the past week in Jefferson County was 20.6. The university reported 18 new cases per day on average [over the] past 7 days. From what I can find, our students, faculty and staff add up to about 30,000 people. That means that the average daily number of new cases per person for the University is almost three times higher than for Jefferson County as a whole,” Pinkston said. “Anyone who wants to talk about our positivity rate being slightly lower than the surrounding area, also needs to talk about our average daily cases per capita being much higher.”

Pinkston said the university may not want to talk about the number of people tested because compliance with the testing policy has been low.

“My strong suspicion is that they don’t want to report the number of people tested because compliance has been terrible,” he said. “The university’s testing policy has still resulted in a selected subsample of its population being tested, and they don’t seem interested in talking about that.” 

Statistics professionals recognize that the methods used in the dashboard results aren’t accurate to the situation. So why is the university applauding itself for its reactions?

If the reasoning behind it is that they want to keep money coming in for the university then why don’t they come out and admit that to the student body rather than manipulating the entire process? 

The shift in university policy towards COVID-19 is very noticeable.

From a sudden change requiring mass testing in cramped spaces to the unreliable dashboard with statistically problematic numbers, the university is failing its students. The university is putting the student body at risk.

The university is playing a reckless game with student lives without being open about why. If there is to be any honesty, then these dangerous behaviors by the administration need to be called out and the student body needs to be vocal about real change.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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