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MUNCIE, Ind. — Ball State University has earned an A- rating from a website that rates college and university COVID-19 dashboards.
We Rate Covid Dashboards is a work-in-progress whose operators include public health faculty at Yale University.
It bases its ratings on nine criteria: easy to read; is the dashboard updated every weekday; does it include how many were tested and how many were positive; are both student and staff results presented; is city-county data included; does it say how often people are tested; does it say how soon tests come back; does it tell how many students are in isolation or quarantine; and does it give a summary of the campus status.
More than 200 institutions have been rated.
Other dashboard grades include Purdue University, A; Butler University, B+; Indiana University, B-; and from BSU’s peers in the Mid-American Conference: University at Buffalo, B; Miami University, B-; Bowling Green State University, B-; Central Michigan University, C; and Kent State University, C+.
“At Ball State University, our dashboard is a tool we are using to be transparent with our campus and the community,” BSU spokesperson Kathy Wolf told The Star Press. “We are updating it daily to help keep people educated and informed as we navigate through this together. “
Ball State scored points in six categories but earned zero points in three categories: is city-county data shared; does it give a summary of campus status; and does it tell how many students are in quarantine and isolation.
“Campus summary means that there is a synthesis of the current status regarding COVID — low, medium, high, etc.,” physician Cary Gross, a professor of medicine and public health at Yale School of Medicine and a co-operator of the website, told The Star Press.
For example, the status at Vassar College on Friday was “Stable, Low Risk.” The status at University of Colorado Boulder was “Level 2: Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors.” At Tulane University it was “Action Alert Level: Orange,” which is worse than green or yellow but better than red, meaning “Shift to ‘Safe at Home’ (students limited to residence halls and off-campus residences) and Move to online instruction.”
Students cross McKinley Avenue on Ball State’s campus Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2020. (Photo: Jordan Kartholl/The Star Press)
Students in quarantine
The Star Press reported on Sept. 12 that Ball State was declining to disclose how many students are in quarantine and isolation — one of the trends the school is monitoring in deciding how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
BSU isn’t the only university withholding that data, but some of its peers in the Mid American Conference are publishing such information on their COVID-19 dashboards, including Northern Illinois University, University of Akron, Bowling Green State University and University of Toledo.
Indiana State University’s dashboard reports the number of students isolating on- and off-campus, the number of students quarantining on- and off-campus and the number of employees isolating and quarantining.
Isolation separates infected people, while quarantine separates and restricts people who were exposed to the disease to see if they become sick.
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Ball State declined to explain why it doesn’t report isolation and quarantine numbers, but it did start disclosing its isolation and quarantine capacity, as percentages, though it is still withholding the actual number of isolation and quarantine beds and how many are occupied.
Categories where BSU earned no points
When asked about the three categories in which Ball state earned no points, Wolf answered, via email:
“In the final question of our FAQ section on our dashboard, we link to the Indiana Department of Health dashboard, which includes data for Delaware County. We have always provided our campus community with that resource, should those numbers be something individuals seek.
“Delaware County COVID-19 analysis is not our purview. With that link, we rely on state and county level medical experts to provide that data. In other words, our dashboard stays appropriately within the scope of what we oversee and manage.
“As for specifics relating to quarantine and isolation, our space available remains vast (as of today, 97.6% isolation/96.4% quarantine). We’re confident those figures give our community a clear picture of our ability to respond to and appropriately handle positive cases.”
We Rate Covid Dashboards is based on information provided on dashboards and does not evaluate the implementation of COVID-19 plans and mitigation strategies.
“We include community data because it is essential that all schools acknowledge the potential effects on and from surrounding communities,” the website says. “We will revise our rating schema as needed, based on further input from stakeholders.”
Other dashboard details
Wolf did not respond to the question of why Ball State’s dashboard lacks a summary of the campus status.
Why is the We Rate Covid Dashboards site a .com rather than a .edu or .org?
“We created a ‘.com’ because these websites tend to get the most traffic, and also because we did not want our effort to be considered as affiliated with any single university,” Gross said in an email. “That’s one of the reasons why our core group incorporates individuals from multiple institutions.”
Members of the website’s team also include experts from Ohio State University, Harvard University and Baylor College of Medicine.
The rating website is not used for commercial purposes, Gross said, adding, “Definitely not making any income.”
Contact Seth Slabaugh at 765 213-5834 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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