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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 19, 2020   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Ithaca College’s COVID-19 dashboard is a useful tool

As the numbers of those affected by COVID-19 fluctuate, people need to stay informed about how many cases are in their areas. A tool that is especially useful to members of the Ithaca College community is the COVID-19 dashboard, an online database that tracks positive COVID-19 cases at the college. 

The dashboard demonstrates that the college values transparency regarding health and safety amid the pandemic. Publicly sharing these numbers shows the college’s sense of responsibility to the broader Ithaca community. The impact of college students on cases in Tompkins County was seen earlier in the month: Demographic data presented Sept. 15 at the Tompkins County Legislature meeting showed an increase of cases among the 10–19 age range. For this age range, the numbers spiked from 6% of the total cases in July to 25% of the total cases. The 20–29 age range also jumped from 30% of the total cases to 36% of the total cases. Although the college was not a significant contributor to this increase, the dashboard holds the college accountable.

The fact that the college is offering free surveillance testing for students, faculty and staff, even though the campus is not open for in-person instruction, should be commended. This shows the college’s commitment to the well-being of the community, a reassuring sentiment looking forward to a potential reopening in the spring.

Additionally, the appointment of Christina Molyan as the director of public health emergency preparedness was a smart and responsible move on the college’s part. Under President Shirley M. Collado’s tenure, the administration has expanded, in spite of national trends and critiques that higher-education institutions are becoming too bureaucratically bloated. However, given the uncertainty of the conditions of the pandemic, it is necessary to have a point person who will provide leadership to the college community during this time.

As the college plans to hold classes in person for Spring 2020, it needs to make sure that the dashboard stays up to date throughout the spring semester. There will be a new set of health risks to deal with when students arrive on campus. As Moylan mentioned Sept. 22 at the All-College Gathering, testing frequencies and the type of tests administered may change over the coming months. It is a breath of fresh air to hear this clear plan and proactive thinking moving forward. Hopefully, students will actually be on campus to see it in action. 

Cornell University also has a COVID-19 dashboard that is similar to Ithaca College’s. A major difference between the two is that Cornell’s dashboard has daily testing data with visuals. This is something that Ithaca College may want to implement so that members of the community can visually see visual representations of the trends in cases rather than just a bunch of numbers. Visual cues can emphasize the severity of the pandemic — just in case some people still are not fully grasping the situation.

Overall, the college is taking measures to ensure the safety of the campus community. The COVID-19 dashboard is a necessary resource, and the college is maintaining it well. With the global pandemic at large, resources like the dashboard are of the utmost importance.

The Ithacan can be reached at ithacan@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @IthacanOnline