Online dashboards publicizing aggregate Covid-19 testing results have been fixtures across higher education for more than a year. But one public university is discontinuing its public-facing dashboard.
The University of Florida’s dashboard stopped reporting new numbers after December 31. The old data will remain online, according to a note on the website. Of the more than 1,900 colleges that have reported coronavirus numbers to The New York Times, Florida has had the most cases, according to data last updated in May 2021.
Because the university does not require students and employees to be tested for the coronavirus, and because many people now take rapid tests at home, the results of which they may not report to the university, Florida’s numbers aren’t an accurate count of how many people have the coronavirus in the campus community, said Michael Lauzardo, an assistant professor of infectious diseases who leads the university’s testing program.
“The data is kind of useless,” he said. The program’s staff didn’t want to publish numbers that aren’t representative and helpful, and the gist of what’s happening is already clear: “Everyone knows that there’s a lot of cases happening right now.”
At this stage of the pandemic, moreover, having exact numbers doesn’t change public-health recommendations, Lauzardo said. But he also admitted to some uncertainty and fluctuation about what those recommendations ought to be, particularly when it comes to tracking infections among fully vaccinated and boosted people who aren’t feeling Covid-19 symptoms, even if they are close contacts of a confirmed coronavirus case.
“Things are changing significantly, and there’s a lot we still don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know what the exact right formula is.”