COVID-19 case tracking dashboard has returned


Leah Van Weelden

With the increasing number of positive COVID tests in the United States, Baker has resumed case tracking on the university website after student and faculty concern.

Editor’s Note: The original version of this article was updated for clarity on Oct. 26, 11:56 a.m.

In the last few weeks of September, the COVID-19 dashboard for case tracking returned to the Baker University website. Launched in the fall semester of 2020, the dashboard documents the number of positive cases on campus as well as the number of students in quarantine. Positive cases are reported to the Dean of Students, Dr. Cassy Bailey, and the dashboard is updated weekly to reflect new developments.

During the 2020-2021 school year, mask-wearing was mandated in all areas of campus and the dashboard was Baker’s primary method of tracking positive cases on both the Baldwin City campus and the Overland Park SPGS campus. Junior Alyssa Waller explained the influence the dashboard had on student behavior during this time.

“I have definitely made decisions when it came to social interaction based on case numbers,” Waller said. “If the case count at Baker was in the low single digits, I am more willing to attend events, hang out with friends, go to larger gatherings, etcetera.”

The dashboard had been quietly shut down at the end of the Spring 2021 semester. This coincides with the CDC announcing last May that people who were fully vaccinated did not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors. As a result, the university had planned to relax mask mandates for fully vaccinated students in all areas except classrooms for the fall 2021 semester.

However, July saw the rise of cases related to the delta variant, the newest strain of COVID-19, across the United States. Studies show that the variant is twice as contagious as previous strains of COVID-19. This puts students at higher risk of contracting the virus, regardless if they’re vaccinated or not.

Upon returning to campus this fall, students were required to be tested or submit proof of full vaccination. The previous mask mandate had been lifted in all areas except classrooms until Aug. 28 when revised policy required them to be worn in academic buildings and encouraged them in indoor facilities.

By Sept. 18, 74 percent of Baker’s population had been fully vaccinated according to President of the Student Senate, Senior John Ely. Despite the vaccination rate, some students and faculty found it difficult to feel safe attending classes and events without case tracking updates from the dashboard.

“Many students had reached out to me about being concerned about not knowing the COVID numbers on campus,” Ely said.

In response to those concerns, Ely consulted student senators, who supported the return of the dashboard. After faculty members raised the same concerns and discussed during the September faculty senate meeting, the decision was made to revive the COVID-19 dashboard and resume case tracking on campus.

“Students and faculty were very anxious about case numbers,” Bailey said. “People are coming down with colds and they’re coming down with allergies. Students are being thoughtful by informing teachers that they are showing symptoms, but they don’t have COVID-19.”

With these recent developments, Ely does not anticipate the university reverting back to online learning any time soon.

“If anything, I would expect that by tracking our own case count, the university would be even less likely to make any changes to the way we are administrating classes because we should expect to see a lower case count in our own Baker community versus benchmarking solely off of Douglas County numbers,” Ely said.

As case tracking made its way back to Baker, faculty members and students remain optimistic that this will help campus life return to a state of normalcy.

The latest COVID-19 dashboard update can be found on Baker’s website every Friday at 9 a.m. Students who are COVID symptomaticquarantined, or isolated are encouraged to complete the following form.