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'Are there cases that are falling through the cracks?'; MSU profs concerned with COVID Dashboard

Together We Will
Posted at 8:08 PM, Sep 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-14 20:31:13-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — After the launch of Michigan State University's COVID-19 dashboard, some on campus are left with questions and concerns about its accuracy.

“Where is our plan? What is the threshold for acceptable case rates or even just numbers of cases on campus and what is the plan for if we reach those numbers?” said one MSU professor who wished to remain anonymous. “Are there cases that are falling through the cracks? Are there cases that aren’t getting reported to the university?”

The COVID dashboard shows almost 92 percent of students, staff and faculty are vaccinated. Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said that's a good number but still has concerns with the surrounding areas.

“Those vaccination rates are great, but those vaccination rates are in a sub-population of the entire East Lansing and the entire Ingham County population....And so we have people on the opposite side of that 90 percent vaccinated rate that is more like about 65 percent vaccinated.”

According to MSU Spokesperson Dan Olsen, a little over 4,000 students, staff and faculty have applied for exemptions and over 2,000 have been approved so far.

The dashboard also breaks down the number of COVID cases currently on campus. For the week of Sept. 6, 122 cases have been reported. There have been 306 since Aug. 2.

That's an improvement from this same time last year, when there were over 600 cases during that same week.

This dashboard is different from last year's because it isn't getting COVID case reports directly from the Ingham County Health Department.

“The dashboard last year said it came from the health department," Vail said. "Originally, it was like it was coming from their numbers as well as the health department's, but we had to figure out how not to duplicate that. So we just used numbers that came from the health department.”

Now, the reported case numbers are coming from MSU's early detection program, student testing on campus and self reports. Which is why some are concerned about the dashboards accuracy.

“I was surprised to see that most of the info-graphics and most of the visual part of the dashboard is focused just on MSU’s early detection program," the MSU professor said.

She said she trust students and staff enough to be honest and report when they test positive for COVID, but has heard calling the hotline hasn't been quick and easy.

"I’ve also seen and heard lots of reports of folks trying to get ahold of the COVID-19 hotline where students are directed to report if they get a positive result from somewhere off campus and people not being able to get through or having really long wait times on that hotline," the professor said.

Vail said since the health department does get all of the positive case reports, they hope to move back to system similar to the previous one, but there are some problems they're facing.

“The problem in that is, is that we get them all, but we have a lot of people that are not answering calls and not answering those questions anymore," Vail said. "So, we won't necessarily know if they're MSU students or not without some work to to, to cross check that so we're working on that process.”

The MSU professor we spoke to said she'd like to see the collaboration with the health department again.

“I think that collaborating with the Ingham County Health Department and bringing back a more comprehensive dashboard would do wonders for improving trust from the university and from staff and faculty,” she said.

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