When national news told UF professor Mark Hostetler that COVID-19 cases were going up, he watched the UF Health Screen, Test and Protect dashboard that monitored the virus on campus.
“I think as a teacher, as a student and as a staff member, it’s important to know locally what’s going on,” the wildlife ecology and conservation professor said.
But the university’s STP dashboard was halted as COVID-19 cases increased in Alachua County.
A campus brief on Dec. 13 announced that UF was transferring services provided under UF Health Screen, Test & Protect to the Florida Department of Health.
Hostetler fears that not being able to see the number of COVID-19 cases locally will detach people from the virus.
“If you report the numbers and see the number of staff, faculty and students that are quarantined themselves, it kind of reinforces that behavior,” he said. “If you don’t have it locally, it’s just like something out there.”
Hostetler acknowledged the numbers reported on the dashboard are not 100% accurate as some people do to not report their test results.
“I sympathize with them,” Hostetler said. “Why would they report? What’s the ramifications if they’re positive?”
The UF Health STP program was part of the initial emergency response to COVID-19, UF Health spokesperson Ken Garcia wrote in an email. The transition of services to existing local and state health infrastructure is the next phase in UF’s response.
Student and employee testing for COVID-19 still exists, but it was transferred to the Student Health Care Center. Students who went to set up an appointment at the end of December before the start of the Spring semester saw no available time slots.
UF responded and returned testing to the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during the first week of classes, Garcia wrote.
Students, faculty and staff are also able to receive vaccines and boosters through the Student Health Care Center and UF Health pharmacies at no cost. The same screening exists and can be found through ONE.UF.
However, UF Health ended its STP dashboard. The dashboard made it easy to track COVID-19 cases among UF affiliates. Charts and graphs showed the number of daily tests, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine.
Upon visiting the website, a notice currently appears with the effective discontinuation date of Dec. 31. This service has also been transferred to the FDOH. The issue raised questions about the ease of accessing this data.
Garcia wrote that the FDOH releases this data on Fridays and that Alachua County provides it on its dashboard.
Contact Lucille Lannigan email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @lucillelannigan.
Lucy is a senior journalism major and the metro editor for The Alligator. She has previously served as a news assistant and the East Gainesville reporter for the metro desk as well as the health and environment reporter on the university desk. When she’s not doing journalism you can find her painting or spending time outside.