A look into Vanderbilt’s COVID-19 dashboard

The dashboard is a tool that the school uses to keep the Vanderbilt community informed of the trend of positive cases on-campus.


Alex Venero

The Zerfoss Student Health Center, pictured above, serves to “enhance the academic experience of students by providing quality primary healthcare services in a nurturing and cost-effective manner,” according to its website. (Hustler Multimedia/Alex Venero)

Molly Katz and Ryder Li

On Aug. 17, Vanderbilt launched a COVID-19 dashboard that monitors the number of positive COVID-19 cases on campus.  

The dashboard reflects the number of positive cases from the university’s weekly COVID-19 testing program. All of the testing displayed on the dashboard is done through Vault, a third party company. As of publication, the dashboard is the only way for the public to view the spread of COVID-19 at Vanderbilt.

Updated every Monday, the dashboard reports the past weeks’ daily data beginning Aug. 17. It includes data on positive test results for three categories: students living on-campus, students living off-campus and faculty, staff and post-doctoral students teaching or working on campus. 

According to Vanderbilt, it does not share personal COVID-19 testing results with any third-parties for any commercial purpose. The data is only accessible by Contact Tracers, the Command Center staff and a limited technical support team with explicit permission to access the data and only with the controls of single sign-on and multi-factor authentication. The personal COVID-19 testing results are used to identify close contacts and to manage quarantine and isolation. 

 Vanderbilt data is displayed in multiple infographics. The student testing table displays the number of tests resulted, the total number of positive tests and the positivity rate for all students each week.

Screenshot of table
This table displays weekly positivity rates among Vanderbilt students. Screenshot taken of chart on Oct 2, 2020. (Hustler Staff/Molly Katz)

A second chart shows the breakdown of positive results between graduate students, on-campus undergraduate students and off-campus undergraduate students per day since the first day of move-in. There are several days on the dashboard where there are no positive test results displayed.

Screenshot of infographic
An infographic on Vanderbilt’s dashboard displays daily student positive results. Screenshot taken of infographic on Oct 2, 2020. (Hustler Staff/Molly Katz)

“On dates where no positive test results are shown, that means that no positive test results were returned, not that no results were returned that day,” a university spokesperson said in an email sent to The Hustler on Sept. 10. 

A third chart shows the daily positive results among faculty, staff and postdocs. Similar to the chart on the positive results of students, there are several days where no positive results are reported.

Screenshot of chart
A similar chart displays daily faculty, staff and postdoctoral positive test results since Aug. 17. Screenshot taken of chart on Oct 2, 2020. (Hustler Staff/Ryder Li)

Finally, Vanderbilt also compares its positivity rate to the county, state and national positivity rates.

Screenshot of chart
A final chart compares Vanderbilt’s positivity rate to the county, state and national positivity rates. Screenshot taken of chart on Oct 2, 2020. (Hustler Staff/Molly Katz)

The dashboard may not show the exact number of positive cases on campus. According to Vanderbilt, the dashboard reflects only positive cases that the university has been notified of. The results of testing conducted by third parties are made known to the university only through self-reporting.

“As an institution, Vanderbilt is working hard to be as proactive and transparent as possible, as we navigate these unprecedented times,” a Sept. 10 statement from Vanderbilt Public Health Central Command Center reads. “When we launched the dashboard, we did so with that goal of transparency in mind.”