Dashboard designed to convey snapshot of campus health
August 24, 2020
Virginia Tech’s new online dashboard continues to offer a picture of what COVID-19 looks like on the Blacksburg campus.
Updated on Monday with data from the preceding week (Aug. 17 through Aug. 23), the dashboard shows 16 true positive cases, out of 5,378 tests, or a 0.3 percent positive rate, for the week.
In the two weeks from Aug. 9 to Aug. 23 , a total of 9,041 students and employees were tested by Schiffert Health Center, and a total of 21 people tested positive for COVID-19. The cumulative figure includes all on-campus students who were tested upon their arrival during the university’s 10-day move-in period from Aug. 14 through Aug. 23.
The cumulative results represent a 0.2 percent rate of positive cases on campus. Last week, the dashboard first reported five cases (one true positive and four positives) and a 0.1 percent positive rate, based on tests from Aug. 9 to Aug. 16. Those five cases included four students who had previously confirmed COVID-19 infections prior to coming to campus.
The dashboard reports Schiffert’s positive tests for both students and employees, but the two categories are not separated.
Virginia Tech officials were not surprised that the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 was higher in the past week, given that the time period included move-in.
Designed to convey a snapshot of the overall health of the campus community, the dashboard is updated each Monday before noon with the previous week’s test results. By updating the numbers weekly, the university has time to verify that the information is accurate, due to a lag in receiving test results, said Kevin Foust, associate vice president for safety and security at Virginia Tech. Still, he said, the university will continue to evaluate its processes and will consider a change in frequency if needed.
Also, the dashboard currently reports that 11 students are in on-campus isolation. Students who test positive for COVID-19 have the option to return home to isolate. If they cannot return home, they must stay in designated on-campus isolation spaces.
The dashboard’s isolation numbers do not reflect the cumulative total of students who have been in isolation, but only the number who are in isolation on the day of reporting, because students may have returned home or some may no longer need to isolate, Foust said.
“Schiffert Health Center or their personal health providers make the determination about their treatment,” he said.
Now that the move-in period is complete, the testing process will shift to surveillance testing.
Those who are symptomatic and those on campus who have high rates of contact with others will be given priority, Foust said. Other students may contact Schiffert to schedule a COVID-19 test on an availability basis.
The Virginia Tech dashboard, with its numbers from Schiffert Health Center testing, is one of the tools that Virginia Tech uses as it helps to manage the pandemic in our area. Officials monitor the Virginia Department of Health dashboard for the commonwealth and individual health districts. Metrics evaluated include the positivity rate, the total number of cases, and the number of tests performed. Available hospital capacity (number of beds, ICU space, and number of ventilators) is also monitored, while the Harvard Global Health Institute’s model is used to monitor national and international information. Decisions regarding in-person instruction and activities are based on public health data and the adherence of Virginia Tech students, faculty, and staff to campus health and safety protocols.