THE INVESTIGATORS: LSU coronavirus dashboard receives lowest transparency ranking in SEC

THE INVESTIGATORS: LSU scores lowest in SEC for COVID-19 dashboard

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - With campus back open and football set to start up against Sept. 26 against Mississippi State, LSU’s coronavirus dashboard has received the lowest ranking for transparency among SEC schools.

Click here to view the dashboard ranking system.

A new ranking system out of Yale handed out letter grades for the progress schools across the country are making with their COVID-19 dashboards. The ranking looks at a number of aspects, including how often the cases are being reported and how easy the dashboard is to read. Dr. Howard Foreman believes the more information a school shares with students and parents, the better.

“With 30,000 or 40,000 people that are living in one campus, many of these universities are like small cities, so we need as much transparency as possible,” he said.

Right now, LSU is dead last among its SEC counterparts, but still managed to receive a passing grade of a “C-”. The top schools in the conference, including the University of Alabama, Texas A&M University, Mississippi State University, and the University of Florida, all received a “B+”. WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked one LSU student if it concerns them that LSU is rated the lowest across the SEC in terms of transparency with its COVID-19 dashboard.

“Well, I don’t necessarily think that I’m concerned about it just because it’s not necessarily representative of our number of cases,” said first-year law student, Simone Smith.

Smith says while things could be better with LSU’s dashboard, overall, she’s pleased with how the school is handling everything else. She says the Tiger Check system, for example, where students and staff log their symptoms every day, truly gives her peace of mind about the coronavirus threat on campus.

“I think that there’s no other way for us to really gauge symptoms other than the self-check because there’s no real feasible way to give students rapid tests every day before coming in,” Smith added.

When comparing the university’s dashboard with other schools across the SEC though, the difference is clear. LSU is currently only reporting the number of cases three times per week and just gives the raw numbers. Schools like Mississippi State are reporting cases every day and they’re also breaking down which cases are students and which ones are faculty. The MSU dashboard also tells the public how many tests are performed each day and how many students are isolated or in quarantine.

“You’d like to have daily data. We understand you can’t always report it on weekends, but we’d like to have at least five days a week of updating,” said Dr. Foreman.

“I think that it could be really helpful to kind of have a breakdown of how many of these numbers are faculty and how many of these numbers are students because I think that could paint a clearer picture of what’s really going on as far as the COVID cases,” Smith added.

While Smith is not overly invested in the data, the university is invested. Leaders at LSU have said they track the coronavirus information regularly to make decisions on whether they will remain open or close the campus. When asked why more of that information is not reflected in their dashboard, a university spokesman released the following statement to WAFB.

"There are a number of factors to consider with these COVID dashboards, including privacy and how beneficial the information presented is to the community. University leadership has said from the start that safety would be our guidepost, but we will not compromise our students, faculty or staff’s privacy with any of our protocols or procedures.

As with everything from the beginning of our preparations in March to have students return to campus, the administration isn’t shy about pivoting or changing directions as needed. With the COVID dashboard, a more robust version has been in the works, and we hope to launch it soon."

“Everyone is in the same boat,” said Smith. “Everyone feels like this sucks because it does, but I think that LSU is really trying to do their best.”

Beginning the week of Sept. 21, LSU is set to start reporting more data to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH). The information could potentially start transferring over to their own dashboard and possibly bring that “C-” up to a better grade.

A spokesman for the university points out LSU has been working on a new dashboard prior to this report and that work is not a reaction to any criticism or ratings. The spokesman adds the school is constantly looking for ways to improve their procedures and measures.

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