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You can see how many students, faculty have tested positive for COVID-19 at UL Lafayette

Leigh Guidry, The Daily Advertiser, Oct. 22, 2020

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has had 288 total positive COVID-19 tests since March 16, including four positive tests this week, according to the school's newly expanded public dashboard.

That number is among the highest in reported cases at other schools in the University of Louisiana System, of which UL Lafayette is the largest. The system has reported more than 1,200 student cases of the virus over nine campuses.

The UL Lafayette online dashboard, which launched in September, displays the number of students, faculty and staff members who have tested positive for the virus.

It is updated by 5 p.m. every weekday to reflect the previous day's cases. Those reported between Friday and Sunday are posted the following Monday, according to the university.

More:Lafayette school board approves new health, online learning jobs as COVID-19 pandemic continues

"Releasing these numbers daily, and doing so in an accurate and public way, is another step we've taken to keep our community informed and safe," said Jaimie Hebert, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

That's not an easy thing, as schools across the country are discovering. There is no national tracking of cases among students and staff returning to schools, whether in K-12 or higher education, and efforts to do so rely solely on self-reporting at the school and individual levels. Tracking efforts also are challenged due to privacy concerns.

A Sept. 1 emergency order by State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry requires schools to report "all known or suspected positive COVID-19 cases" among students and staff to the Louisiana Department of Health, and data from UL Lafayette are feeding into a statewide dashboard of cases at colleges and universities.

The UL Lafayette dashboard, which can be accessed online here, displays a weekly case number as well as a running total that reflects cases reported since March 16, and users can scroll through the weekly totals dating back to the spring.

More:Lafayette school board approves new health, online learning jobs as COVID-19 pandemic continues

At first the continually updated page showed only the number of confirmed, documented cases among students tested on campus, either at Student Health Services or in the Department of Athletics, and student workers who provided documentation to the Office of Human Resources.

Now the school has expanded the dashboard to also include the number of students tested off campus and have self-reported their positive results to the Office of the Dean of Students.

Data also come from employee documentation received by Human Resources.

"We discussed including this data initially but realized the self-reported cases might be duplicated in data we had from Student Health Services, Athletics and Human Resources," said Hebert, who co-chairs the task force that planned for the return to campus this fall.

"It took time to cull through the two data sets, both of which cover a seven-month period, to ensure we’re presenting an accurate picture to the campus and to the general public."

More:5 UL sorority members test positive for COVID-19, 16 others in quarantine

Hebert expects to see an initial jump in the number of cases now that additional student data is being included, but he is happy to see "low" numbers at the campus.

"By adhering to the university's health and safety protocols and by following general public health guidance, the campus community has kept the number of positive cases low," Hebert said in a release.

The dashboard can be viewed at www.louisiana.edu/covid-19-response/covid-19-dashboard.

Contact Leigh Guidry at lguidry@theadvertiser.com or on Twitter @LeighGGuidry. 



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