In season 1, we asked about 100 public universities for their data on concussions, only to discover that many schools are not keep track of it, making it difficult to know if college sports are truly getting safer.
Then a global pandemic struck, which got us wondering: Are those same schools just as secretive about their COVID-19 data?
So we reached out and asked for it, and then analyzed when and if they’ve been releasing the information to the public in an easily accessible way.
We sought the information from the 32 schools that reported no concussion data when season 1 reporter Joe Hastings requested it, and were pleasantly surprised to see that many of the schools — 21 of them to be exact — got back to us with data. Some within hours.
The other 11 schools never replied.
But the dashboards we did receive encouraged us to investigate the types of data being reported across the universities to see if there were any discrepancies or differences in the type of information available.
Most schools dashboard data contained basic information, such as number of positive cases, the positivity rate and number of quarantine beds.
The University of Alabama and University of Arkansas only provided that bare bones information. Alabama combined all COVID-19 cases from January 2020 to August 2020 in one stat.
The University of North Carolina maintained one of the easier and most comprehensive dashboards, listing important statistics such as the number of asymptomatic vs symptomatic students and employees. University of Michigan, where the state-wide cases are skyrocketing, go dorm-by-dorm for COVID details.
For the most part, however, many schools whose input we looked at seemed to fall closer to Alabama than North Carolina, only providing the minimal information. This is true even for universities like UC-Santa Barbara in California, where rules have been among the most stringent in the country.
Some schools shifted their priorities with the instrument panels. For example, the University of Georgia dedicated much of its dashboard to vaccine statistics. In fact, that data has supplanted the COVID data on its website. The University of Texas at Austin also holds vaccine information and separates it by race, sex and age group.
We also asked schools when they implemented their reporting dashboards for COVID-19 data, and this part of our request was frequently glossed over in responses. Only four schools answered this question, each with various start dates.
The most surprising to us was that most schools did not start tracking their numbers immediately. Both UC Irvine and Penn State started tracking their numbers in the fall of 2020, with UC Irvine beginning in September and Penn State in August. Others, such as San Diego State University began tracking COVID-19 cases from the beginning of the pandemic, in March of 2020. Ernie Ballard, the media relations director at LSU said they had an initial dashboard that ran from March to June of 2020 but was updated in September to be in-depth.
So, basically, we found that, like with concussions, data on COVID-19 cases varies, state to state, university to university. There is little consistency.
Unlike concussion data, it’s a lot more easily available.
And probably the biggest take-away: This proves that the colleges and universities that claim to not track concussion data, do have the ability to do it and share it. They just choose not to.