Show Me the Data – Ithaca College’s COVID-19 Dashboard

By Christina Moylan, September 25, 2020
A message from Christina Moylan, Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness.

Public Health Column introduction video. 

Accurate and clear information is vital when navigating a pandemic.  

I am hoping by now that I’ve convinced you about the importance of wearing a face covering, maintaining six feet of physical distance, practicing good hand hygiene, and avoiding gatherings and travel when possible. 

Another type of information that is equally important in our collective fight against COVID-19 is access to data. Data helps us effectively track and understand the impact that the pandemic is having on Ithaca College and our surrounding community. It highlights our successes and challenges, and the ups and downs that come with managing COVID-19. 

"We will be better served if we use the dashboard data as a constant reminder of the seriousness of COVID-19 and that our actions matter."  

Christina Moylan, Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness

We previously announced the release of our own COVID-19 Tracking Dashboard. The dashboard is an important barometer of how the pandemic is affecting our college community, and also reflects our impact on the Tompkins County numbers overall. It shares data about how we are contributing to the testing effort, who is receiving tests, and the number of positive cases within our population. It also measures our quarantine and isolation capacity – an important signal of our ability to manage an outbreak should one occur. We update our dashboard Monday through Friday as data becomes available and will continue to add new data points as the breadth of information we collect on our pandemic response grows. 

I want to bring to the forefront the strength of our information technology team – particularly David Weil, associate vice president information technology; Casey Kendall, executive director applications and infrastructure; John White, associate director enterprise applications architecture, applications and infrastructure; and Vanessa Brown, enterprise data warehouse engineer, applications and infrastructure – and the critical contributions they have made to our data tracking and reporting efforts. This team operates behind the scenes and they have built from scratch our data collection and reporting backbone. Without this expertise our ability to provide current and accurate information would not be possible.   

Christina Moylan

Christina Moylan, Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness

You have probably noticed that no two college dashboards are the same, and this can be confusing.  

Governor Cuomo recently announced that all institutions of higher education must submit standardized data to the New York State Higher Education COVID-19 Report. We upload new data to the state report daily in addition to updating our own institutional dashboard. You will notice, however, some differences between our institutional dashboard and the numbers that we report to the state.  

The state reporting requirements are specific to students and employees accessing campus and does not apply to those who are remote, even if they live in the area. Since we are primarily remote this semester, some of the data we are choosing to provide on our own institutional COVID-19 Tracking Dashboard is not reported to the state.  

This will result in some differences between the two dashboards, with our institutional dashboard providing more information than what is reflected on the state dashboard. In addition, due to differences in timing and changes that may occur during the data reconciliation processes, the numbers of tests reported may also differ slightly. 

Does providing access to all of this data on our dashboard make us safer? It doesn’t prevent us from spreading COVID-19, rather, it is a tool that illustrates the significant impact that the pandemic is having on our community and provides a snapshot of the institution’s progress in responding. We will be better served if we use the dashboard data as a constant reminder of the seriousness of COVID-19 and that our actions matter.  

We are counting on each one of you to do your part to help with keeping positives and the need for quarantine and isolation down, today, tomorrow, and for the remainder of the fall and spring semesters. 

Let’s keep our numbers low, and our spirits high!  

Christina Moylan, Ph.D. 
Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness