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Transparency is especially important during the pandemic

Since March, we’ve all adopted a new vocabulary, including community spread, social distancing , congregate living, bubble and positivity rate . We watch the 7-day moving average and cases-by-ZIP-code like a weather report. We can do this because of the transparency of case reporting by the Washtenaw County Health Department (WCHD).

Colleges and universities struggle with a wide-range of COVID-19 challenges, from the most basic to the most complex. But one element of navigating the pandemic should be a no-brainer: being transparent about the number of COVID-19 cases on-campus.

Some North Carolina community colleges have published a website “dashboard” that tracks COVID-19 cases on campus. This makes a lot of sense for schools – like WCC – that have chosen to offer some form of in-person instruction.

People who must be on campus – students, staff, faculty and administration – have an unquestionable right to make fully informed decisions about their risks, based on the current COVID-19 condition of the campus environment. Based on the most recent information from the WCHD, 43% of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 7% of hospitalizations were found among people age 18-39 in the last two weeks. The majority of WCC students are in that age range.

It does no harm to be honest about the ongoing presence of COVID-19 on campus. If nothing else, it can demonstrate the need to take precautions, both while on and off campus. Pretending that COVID-19 does not exist, or that it has not already touched WCC’s campus is both unhelpful and dangerous. Since WCC cannot conduct certain classes in any format other than in-person, the College owes a duty of care to the students, faculty and staff who must be physically present to deliver or receive instruction.

Photo Credit: Jason Aarons , via Flickr