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‘Data will guide our policies:’ UofSC announces COVID-19 dashboard

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 11:42 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - University of South Carolina administrators unveiled the University’s COVID-19 dashboard that outlines campus COVID-19 cases, positivity rate, and vaccination rates, and campus alert factors that campus leaders say reinforces the current public health policies at the University and will steer future decisions.

“Data will tell us where we are. Data will tell us where we’re going. Data will express trends. Data will guide our testing. Data will guide our policies,” said Interim President Harris Pastides.

University leaders say they’re impressed by the data so far. Since August, there have been 242 active cases with 121 total active cases as of August 25. The percent positive rate was 2.8% among students and 1.8% among faculty and staff from August 15-21.

Administrators understand that cases may rise, especially after move-in and Labor Day activities. They say it’s important to be willing to change plans when needed, and the dashboard will guide those decisions.

“It’s got to be making wise decisions based on data. And more than anything, public health must be flexible,” said Pastides. “These are our strategies today, they’re our opinions. We are optimistic and hopeful. We’re also guarded and concerned.”

The University reinstated its indoor mask mandate last week, and leaders say the mask mandate helped keep COVID-19 cases at bay last fall. Classes are in-person this fall with the mask mandate in place, and leaders say flexibility of online classes is available should a student or faculty member need to quarantine.

“If things got worse, we can’t be sure what will happen, but for now we think the academic policy of flexibility ought to suffice,” said Pastides.

Before returning to campus, students were required to submit a quarantine plan should they need to isolate from others and most indicated they would return home, but the University has set aside 200 spaces for emergency use should someone need to quarantine and not be able to return home.

They say the dashboard is a transparent way to show the public how the University is doing each week in terms of COVID-19 mitigation and it’s another tool they have, along with masking, testing, and vaccinations, in the fight against the virus.

“What we have this year, in addition to those tools in the toolchest, are, we have vaccines,” said Interim Provost Dr. Stephen Cutler. “And we see a good number of individuals have been vaccinated, which is going to help us tremendously.”

Administrators say there have been conversations about a vaccine mandate, but the current laws don’t allow the University to require vaccinations. If a higher vaccination rate is needed at some point, leaders say they will have conversations with lawmakers.

For now, the University is offering vaccine incentives such as scholarships, Airpods and Macbooks, and football tickets. For faculty and staff, some incentives include travel stipends, supply grants, or parking passes.

The UofSC COVID-19 dashboard is recorded each Sunday through Saturday and results are posted every Tuesday.

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