19 News investigates the transparency of COVID case reporting at 8 Ohio universities

Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 10:22 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It has been a difficult time for universities, trying to navigate the new normal while containing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Many colleges across the country are under fire for their lack of transparency when it comes to reporting COVID cases on campus.

The COVID-19 cases popping up across campuses have many calling for more transparency. 19 News looked at data from eight universities in Ohio including Ohio State University, Miami University, Kent State University, the University of Akron, the University of Cincinnati, Bowling Green State University, Ohio University, and the University of Toledo.

While many universities have put strict policies in place, some students aren’t paying attention. Like at Miami University in Ohio where police busted a COVID positive college student for having a house party.

“I’ve never seen this before. There’s an input on the computer that says you tested positive for COVID?” an officer asked a student in a body camera video.

“Yes,” the student replied.

“When was this?” asked the officer.

“This was a week ago,” said the student.

“Are you supposed to be quarantining?” the officer asked.

“Yeah that’s why I’m at my house,” the student said.

“You have other people here and you’re positive for COVID? See the problem?” the office asked him.

On Thursday, Kent State announced changes to residence hall visitors and dining due to a spike in positive COVID cases the university says is linked to off-campus gatherings.

“On college campuses where we know that adolescents, young adults are at very high risk for spreading this, uh, really in literal epidemic proportions, testing is our single biggest weapon that we have to stamp this down,” said Dr. Howard Forman, from Yale School of Public Health.

All the universities had updated their data in the last week. We found that all eight schools report the total number of positive cases, but only three out of eight report current active cases.

“Many of these universities are like small cities,” said Forman. “So, you’re dealing in some cases, like Wisconsin, like Ohio State, some Florida schools, some Texas schools, with 30 or 40,000 people who are living on one campus. And sometimes when you hear about a massive outbreak you may think that it’s widespread across the campus, but it could be that two dormitories are badly infected, and everyone else is actually doing pretty well.”

Doctor Forman has created a website grading universities on their COVID dashboards. He gave Ohio State a B+ and Miami University a B-. The main differences are that Miami does not report the positivity rate, the negative cases, and the number of quarantined and isolated students. Ohio State tracks everything but active cases and recoveries.

“A lot of these places are getting better right now, but they’re getting better because they basically stopped everything in its tracks. And they locked people down, and they kicked people out, and they started to enforce things more seriously,” Forman said.

We found only two schools, OSU and Toledo, report the positivity rate. The positivity rate is the number of tests versus the number of positive cases. It is a measure that experts say can help determine if there is enough testing. Six out of eight universities report daily or weekly numbers.

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