TDAI team develops COVID tracking tool for schools

While COVID-19 and the international pandemic have universally affected both businesses and institutions, it has become especially important to monitor and protect schools in the face of rising infection rates. In the late months of 2020, the number of infections for both children and teachers reached record highs, creating a grim situation for local school systems in the face of continued pandemic. In response to the conditions faced by local districts, a team of OSU researchers and programmers, led by TDAI core faculty member Ayaz Hyder designed a new tool to monitor and track COVID cases in these vulnerable school areas to seek early warning signs and curb larger outbreaks.

The tool, named CATS (COVID-19 Analytics and Targeted Surveillance) is an online dashboard that allows school leaders to track data that’s specific to their districts, including student and staff absences, nurse visits by students with flu-like symptoms, and COVID-19 cases among people living in their district boundaries. Once they’re plugged into the system, school leaders can input their own data about staff and students, which is automatically populated in the into easy-to-read charts.

“There are three primary CATS products. The first is a secure dashboard for school administrators, their advisors, and local public health. The second is a public dashboard for community members to track what’s happening in schools and their communities. The third is a weekly report that summarizes COVID-19 rates by school district/county for community members and stakeholders. The main goal of CATS is to present data that can inform decisions for disease control and containment among school district students, staff and families,” said team member Anne Trinh.

More than a dozen Columbus-area schools have already signed on to view data, with more to come as students return to class throughout January. With the new COVID information available at their fingertips, local schools hope to be able to better protect their students and staff, while also protecting the greater Columbus area from potential outbreaks.

“Local data for local decision-making is very important. Using multiple data sources in an integrated manner because no one data source is perfect enables better decisions for better outcomes for students, staff and families. That’s what CATS does and that’s why it is important,” Hyder said.

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