The Collegian
Friday, December 02, 2022

Weekly COVID-19 report concerns students on limited data

<p>Graphic by Katherine Gillenwater</p>

Graphic by Katherine Gillenwater

Students at the University of Richmond shared concerns about not having a COVID-19 dashboard and instead, having to rely on a once-a-week update on active COVID-19 cases via SpiderBytes. 

From the fall 2020 semester through the spring 2022 semester, UR shared the number of COVID-19 cases via the COVID-19 dashboard which was updated twice weekly, wrote Sunni Brown, director of media and public relations, in an email to The Collegian on Sept. 8. 

In addition to the number of active cases, the dashboard showed the total number of cases, the cumulative total number of tests and information on positivity rates. The dashboard displayed the occupancy rate of quarantine units and distinguished cases among students and faculty and staff. Links and details for local, state, and national COVID-19 data were also provided. 

UR transitioned to displaying cases on a Student Health Report every Friday via SpiderBytes, according to an email sent on Aug. 19. As of Friday, Sept. 16, there were 19 active COVID-19 cases. 

The Student Health Report is placed near the end of the campus announcements on SpiderBytes. 

“In SpiderBytes, it’s so long that it's almost like an inconvenience to find that piece of information,” junior Kristin Santana said. “I feel like they low-key strategically put it at the bottom.” 

Only being informed twice weekly makes it difficult to know how well UR is doing with its COVID-19 cases, Santana said. 

“Should I be wearing a mask? Should I not? I feel like I’m not making the most informed decisions because I don’t have that information in a very accessible place,” Santana said.  

Universal masking was required from the beginning of the fall 2021 semester until Feb. 16, 2022. Since then, universal masking is not required, but faculty and staff can require students to wear masks and should inform students about this in advance.

Junior Jordann Carter does not read the number of active COVID-19 cases on SpiderBytes, but feels those numbers are underreported as students must self-report their positive cases, Carter said. 

“It’s just kind of wishy-washy when you’re having a lot of students who may not have symptoms,” Carter said. “People aren’t really going out and getting tested and willingly picking up masks.” 

Coming to UR as a first-year in 2020, junior Katherine Nguyen said she felt numb to the number of active COVID-19 cases on campus. 

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“The numbers just kept getting bigger which sucks but that’s just how it is here," Nguyen said. 

While Nguyen does not routinely check the Student Health Report on SpiderBytes, she hears from social media or those around her about how many active cases are on campus, Nguyen said. 

“I notice people’s absences," Nguyen said. "So that’s how I’m made aware of it.” 

While cases have since dropped, students have shared their hopes of bringing back the COVID-19 dashboard again.

“It’s helpful for people who want to see it,” Santana said. “And if you don’t want to see it, then just don’t go looking for it. The school was able to do it for two years so I don’t understand why they stopped.”

Other than bringing back the dashboard, Carter suggested implementing the same COVID-19 policies used during the fall 2020 semester.

“I would prefer we have masks in class,” she said. “And how we were able to get tested bi-weekly. At the very least, that would be something that would help protect people.” 

Contact news writer Ananya Chetia at ananya.chetia@richmond.edu 

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