Post #813: Radford University, how not to report COVID-19 data

Posted on September 15, 2020

Source:  Radford University COVID-19 dashboard.

Edit:  And, when they finally published the data, there were just 40 new COVID-19 positive cases on campus, down from 64 the prior “week” (6-day period).

I’ve been a health care data analyst for more-or-less all of my professional life.  And one thing I have noticed is that when an organization is obliged to report information, but has some discretion as to timing, the better the news, the quicker it gets published.

And, vice-versa.

So when I see a university pledge to update their COVID-19 case counts weekly, what I want to see is that they update their COVID-19 case counts weekly.  Not, sometimes weekly.  Not, weekly if they can get around to it.  But, weekly, on the dot.  The way the Commonwealth reports the daily counts by 10 AM, full stop.

I say this because I’ve been tracking the situation at Radford University.  Not because of any personal connection.  But because they were the first Virginia University to report a serious COVID-19 outbreak, and because it looked like they were going to be able to pull through, despite a surge of cases traced to three large student parties.

(I’m also tracking William and Mary, where I do have a personal interest.  Thankfully, their COVID-19 dashboard remains roughly as exciting as watching paint dry.  This week, they are 99.86 percent uninfected.)

Last week’s update from Radford was good news.  It showed cases reported through 9/6/2020, posted to their website on 9/7/2020.  Which means that should have been updated yesterday.  But it wasn’t.  And hasn’t been updated yet today.

Looking at the Commonwealth of Virginia data for Radford City, unless something truly odd has happened, Radford University should once again report about 60 new cases in the past week.  But I also note that, based on the Commonwealth’s data, two people in Radford City were hospitalized for COVID-19 in the past few days.

And then there’s this.  Which, at first, I thought had to be a hoax.  And that’s not a commentary on the subject of the rally.  It’s a commentary on urging your student body to attend a mass public rally, of any sort, in the middle of an on-campus outbreak of COVID-19.

Am I really that more serious about this than most people?  So that this strikes me as a ludicrously unnecessary additional risk?  I mean, I was floored when I read that.  Perhaps I am far, far out of the mainstream with regard to taking unnecessary risks.  And in particular, on asking others to take risks.

So, Radford can’t seem to report their own infection data in a timely fashion.  But they did ban student gatherings of more than ten persons.  Before they urged their students to attend a mass rally this weekend.

That’s a set of some seriously mixed messages there.