As of May 6, 2022, Willamette’s online COVID-19 Dashboard was discontinued by the COVID Advisory team as a result of many different factors including the availability of rapid tests and high local and regional rates of vaccination. Willamette’s COVID advisory team announced the decision to discontinue the dashboard after Spring 22 in a May 6 email to the community.
Don Thomson, Associate Dean for Health and Well-being, said that the overall purpose of the COVID Dashboard was to enable transparency about COVID numbers in the Willamette community during times that were difficult to navigate, strengthening the sense of safety and well-being throughout the campus.
According to Thomson, as Willamette continues to navigate the late stages of the pandemic, the need for the COVID Dashboard subsided. Thomson said that as the pandemic continued, “case counts were no longer reliable or as useful as a primary metric of assessing risk. We had to look at the things we could count and things we could count and we knew were reliable, our hospitalizations and deaths.” Thomson referred to graphs that illustrate daily COVID-19 cases, death rates and hospitalization rates that were created through data provided from the Center for Disease Control to further illustrate his point.
“Prior to that red line, home testing wasn't available,” Thomson explained. “The only way you could get a test was by going to your doctor's or clinic. These spikes prior to the line and these numbers are an accurate reflection of cases because every single test was done not at home. Every doctor's office, every clinic, every lab had to report the results–positive or negative. So we had a really good count of cases until here (referring to the portion of the graph after the line) and then home tests became available, and people stopped reporting home tests to the public health agencies.”
Another factor that contributes to the disappearance of the COVID Dashboard includes high vaccination rates. Thomson explained: “Our vaccine rates are off the charts compared to the national average. In the US it's 67 percent, in Oregon it is 71 percent and at Willamette it is 96 percent. Then we look at boosters, at least one booster and it is 56 percent nationally, 61 percent in Oregon, and 92 percent at Willamette University. So we have a very well immunized community. When you look at the hospitalizations and death rates due to COVID, they are all overwhelmingly unvaccinated.”
Do students and faculty at Willamette have a reliable and accessible way of keeping track of covid cases at campus now that there isn’t a COVID Dashboard? The simple answer is no, yet Thomson emphasized that measures such as masking, vaccination and testing for COVID when symptomatic are effective ways to combat the pandemic, which means that there simply isn’t a need for a tracking system. He continues to highlight the use of Bishop Wellness Center as a resource for students who contract COVID-19.