New Dane Co. dashboard lets parents track illnesses in schools

The effective successor to the agency’s now-deprecated COVID-19 dashboard, this new version goes further to include RSV and the flu.
Published: Oct. 16, 2023 at 4:14 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 16, 2023 at 6:15 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – A tool from Dane Co. health officials will let parents in the county get an idea if there are any illnesses working their way through the county’s schools. On Monday, Public Health Madison and Dane Co. unveiled its new Respiratory Illness Dashboard.

The effective successor to the agency’s now-deprecated COVID-19 dashboard, this new version goes further to include RSV and the flu, the agency explained in its announcement.

“Our COVID-19 dashboard has been immensely popular, and we hope this new data dashboard gives people a broader view of what viruses are circulating,” PHMDC director Janel Heinrich said, adding that the page includes an overview of current trends as well as more specific data.

One new feature of this revamped dashboard allows users to see how many students in the Oregon School District missed class in recent weeks. The tracker posts a week-by-week update of how many students were absent for illness-related reasons.

The numbers, which appear to update on Thursdays, include the week before the one that just concluded and all prior weeks. For example, the update on Monday, October 16, added the first week of the month (October 1-7). Next Monday, by extension, the refresh would include the week of October 8-14.

The agency said the figures cover the roughly 4,000 students in the Oregon School District. In Monday’s update, it indicated there were 450 illness-related absences in the first week of the month, a decline from the previous two weeks.

“We hope that by making this information accessible, we are helping provide people with the information they need to make decisions about their health,” Heinrich continued.

Elsewhere on the dashboard, a user can find tracking data for cases of each COVID-19, RSV, and the flu as well as the combined number of deaths and hospitalization rates. There is also data on lab testing trends and air samplers.

UW Medical Foundation professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Dave O’Connor noted that, as far as he knew, PHMDC was the first public health department in the world to provide information on air sampling.

According to the agency’s explanation, health officials set up devices in various Dane Co. schools, which collect samples from the air that are then tested for COVID-19 and the flu. The dashboard shows heat maps, based on whether the samples came from elementary, middle, or high schools.

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