KU launches new dashboard for COVID-19 data; total number of confirmed cases now 799
photo by: Conner Mitchell/Journal-World
For the first time in over a week, the University of Kansas on Friday released new data on the prevalence of COVID-19 on its campuses as part of the unveiling of a new dashboard with expanded statistical information about the respiratory virus.
Since its last data release on Sept. 2, KU has confirmed — through the conclusion of its entry testing program and the beginning of a more targeted testing effort — an additional 253 cases of COVID-19, bringing the university’s cumulative total to 799. The university also confirmed for the first time the number of students it has in on-campus isolation and quarantine due to the virus, and how many virus tests it has conducted on those showing symptoms.
KU’s new dashboard also indicated that the rate of COVID-19 cases in Douglas County, adjusted for population, currently sits at 191 per 100,000 residents.
Beginning next week, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod also announced that the university — through its Pandemic Medical Advisory Team — would begin issuing a short-term forecast once a week of the status of campus operations. The Journal-World has filed public records requests for any COVID-19 modeling used by KU, but has not received any.
“Our goal has never been to eradicate COVID-19; rather, our goal has been to take science-based steps that allow us to co-exist with it while fulfilling our mission of education, service and research,” Girod said in a campus message.
KU’s current total of 799 positive COVID-19 test results is out of a total of 26,248 tests, for a positive rate of 3.04%. That rate is up slightly from 2.42% when data was last released on Sept. 2. KU also delineated its data for just the last seven days, which indicated 70 positive test results out of 915 total tests — a 7.65% positive rate.
Since KU is switching to a more targeted model of testing — a combination of random sampling and testing those known to have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 — Girod said it’s entirely reasonable to see increased rates of positivity in the coming days and weeks.
“Our testing results so far remain in line with what we’ve expected and are prepared to manage,” he said. “Importantly, it is still the case that we know of no hospitalizations associated with our testing efforts.”
The university currently has 100 students either in isolation or quarantine in on-campus housing facilities as of Tuesday, according to the new dashboard. Twenty-two of those students are in isolation, meaning they tested positive for the virus, and 78 are in quarantine, meaning they are either awaiting test results, exhibiting symptoms of the virus, or came in close contact with a confirmed positive case.
Those numbers are a marked increase from what KU reported six days prior, on Sept. 2; then, only two students were in isolation and 49 were in quarantine. The university’s dashboard doesn’t specify how many of the students included in the Tuesday total were also counted in the Sept. 2 data.
KU used nearly $1 million in federal money from the March CARES Act stimulus to lease Naismith Hall, a private living facility near Allen Fieldhouse, as a quarantine and isolation space for the 2020-21 academic year, and has estimated it has space for around 200 students to be isolated. It’s not clear whether students who are required to quarantine but do not necessarily have a confirmed case of the virus are also living in Naismith.
Also new in Friday’s dashboard is data detailing the number of COVID-19 tests conducted on symptomatic patients at Watkins Health Center, the on-campus health care provider. In the last seven days, 176 people have visited the COVID-19 clinic, 133 were tested for COVID-19, and 23 of those returned with positive results — a rate of 17.3%.
Since Aug. 1, Watkins has conducted 393 symptomatic tests with 113 returning positive for a 28.8% positivity rate, according to the dashboard.
KU appears to no longer be separating out students belonging to fraternities or sororities when it delivers COVID-19 data — which it had done for several updates during the entry testing program. Students in greek life were testing positive for the virus at a much higher rate than the rest of the university community.
Girod closed Friday’s message by promising to keep the KU community informed of changes related to COVID-19. The university in recent months has fielded numerous calls for increased transparency from students, faculty, staff and various media outlets.
“We have an outstanding team of public health experts monitoring our situation closely in partnership with local and governmental health organizations, as we know things can change quickly,” Girod said. “We will continue to keep you informed of new developments.”
Going forward, KU’s new COVID-19 dashboard will be publicly updated on Tuesdays and Fridays. The forecast update — which Girod said would provide two-week analysis of metrics such as new positive cases and hospitalizations — will come out once a week, but it’s not yet clear which day.
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