To ensure transparency about Covid cases on its campus, the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A) has started its own Covid dashboard, which went fully functional on October 8, that shows ongoing Covid-19 results of tests done by the institute for its faculty, staff, students, contractual staff, etc., since September. Of over 1,000 tests held so far, 39 tested positive.
The dashboard, developed by the Centre for Management of Health Services at the institute, was created nearly two months after the campus lost its librarian Prof Anil Kumar H to Covid-19, in mid-July. At present, two faculty members and three students are infected, as per the dashboard.
By end of July, Professor Chirantan Chatterjee, IIM-A faculty and chairperson at Centre for Management of Health Services (CMHS) at IIM-A, along with a IIT sophomore, Aditya Bansal, published a simulation study on the impact of reopening academic institutes during the pandemic that said Covid could sweep college campuses within 10 weeks if reopened.
The campus, however, decided to allow several of its 140 one-year Post Graduate Programme in Management for Executives (PGPX) students who faced accomodation and connectivity issues to return to campus even as classes continue online.
A dashboard was mooted since March in a bid to bring about greater transparency and better managing of infection on campus. By August-end, over 100 contractual labourers working with construction projects at the new IIM-A campus and residing near the campus, tested positive for Covid in a drive by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC).
Director of IIM-A, professor Errol D’Souza, told The Indian Express, “The dashboard is to introduce transparency so that employees, students, and families have crucial information that they can use to understand and make decisions regarding their safety. On the dashboard, there is a self-declaration form for those who come to stay on campus, inorder to track them… The dashboard also has Covid-19 FAQs and contact details for various queries.”
The campus now has a Covid-19 coordinator who liaisons with the AMC and gets testing drive conducted at least once every week since September. On October 10, RTPCR tests were conducted for the first time, instead of the antigen tests held so far.
AMC west zone deputy health officer Dr Daxa Maitrak said, “Based on demand for RTPCR, we send teams accordingly. We have RTPCR testing at Ambawadi UHC as well.”
Responding to email queries, IIM-A elaborated the standard operating procedure that they will be following for students returning to their campus that includes an undertaking that they have no comorbidity or Covid-19 symptoms and are not coming from a containment zone. They will have to undergo a health check-up by a panel of doctors at the campus, followed by quarantine for two weeks in a dorm room.
Four to five days after arrival, they will then be subjected to antigen testing and RTPCR in case of symptoms. If positive, they will be quarantined in a separate facility and permitted to attend classes virtually. Prof D’Souza said, “As the virus mutates and ebbs and flows, it would help us understand the measures required to enhance safety.”
The IIM-A campus sees a daily footfall of 1,300-1,400 at present, including staffers, temporary workers and faculty. Of the 39 who tested positive among the 1,138 who were tested till October 8, 15 recovered and 24 are in quarantine.
Globally, institute-centric dashboard has been implemented by institutes, including Stanford University, where “total confirmed positive cases” are reflected, which refers to “positive cases among Stanford faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars” since March, 2020 and reflects results from any source of testing. These individuals may or may not have been working on campus. The dashboard also includes the number of positive patients in isolation on campus. Boston University is another example, where the dashboard also includes comparative statistical analysis.
According to the Chatterjee-Bansal simulation study, “Our recommendation to Indian academic campuses would be to stay virtual for the foreseeable future… until India achieves adequate deployment of vaccines; campuses are prepared with isolation wards, testing capacities, and medicines; and information on these measures is transparently shared with stakeholders in the ecosystem.”
The study recommended that all stakeholders should be given a choice to be physically present or attend virtually. The paper also estimated that assuming six per cent of the infected cases requiring hospitalisation, “a population size of 1,700 would conservatively require at least 50 beds, based on 833 infections and a 6% hospitalisation rate, with adequate healthcare equipment and staff”.
Professor Chatterjee, who is also a visiting fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said “Dashboards along with campus health surveillance technologies are the way forward. This will help track infection outbreaks as we live with the virus…”
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