UT-Austin students say knowing active case numbers on new COVID-19 dashboard helps gauge situation

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Photo Credit: Emma George | Daily Texan Staff

The University updated its COVID-19 dashboard Sept. 30 to include active cases and positivity rates for both proactive community testing and clinical testing. As of Thursday evening, the dashboard shows there are 66 active cases on campus.

Chris Brownson,  director of the Counseling and Mental Health Center, said active case numbers and positivity rates were added to the dashboard to provide a better sense of what was happening with COVID-19 on campus.

“Before, all we were providing was a cumulative number of cases, which doesn't really give you a very good indication of what's happening right now,” said Brownson, who worked on updating the dashboard.

The current positivity rate for proactive community testing since June 1 is 1.6% for students and 0% for faculty and staff, and the current positivity rate for clinical testing since June 1 is 10.2% for students and 13% for faculty and staff, according to the dashboard. The dashboard shows 1,371 total cases since March 1.

Students say knowing the number of active cases on campus rather than only the cumulative number of cases since March 1 helps them assess the status of COVID-19 within the community.

Hector Molina, a radio-television-film sophomore, said the information on the dashboard is helpful because students can know the actual number of students who are sick at one time, but he wishes he knew where cases were on campus or in West Campus.  

“Having an idea of how many cases are actually positive can give us a clear outline of how we’re doing as a university,” Molina said. “If the dashboard were to have at least hot spots to avoid, that could make things a whole lot better.”

The University has declined to release information about the locations of cases or clusters of cases, citing privacy laws, according to previous reporting by The Daily Texan.

Jocelyn Rodriguez, a human dimensions of organizations junior, said the information on the dashboard is helpful for keeping track of COVID-19 cases as businesses begin to reopen and people start to behave like normal. 

“I looked at (the dashboard), and I'm like, ‘Oh wow, this is real, this still exists,’” Rodriguez said. “As for the UT campus, it gives me clarity of how many students are involved and how many people that have worked there are involved.”

Brownson said the University has put incentives, such as gift cards and giveaways, in place to encourage students to participate in proactive testing. 

The University administered 622 proactive community tests Wednesday, which was a record, Brownson said. The dashboard shows UT topped that number with 693 PCT tests Thursday. Brownson said he hopes the updates to the dashboard will encourage more people to get tested.

“We've also been really focusing on social media and communications about this,” Brownson said. “As time goes on, I think more and more people are hearing about it and seeing it as a great resource to get tested for free.”