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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

UF’s COVID-19 dashboard altered this week; nearly 1,300 students and faculty test positive in three weeks

UF COVID-19 tracking

Nearly 1,300 UF students and faculty have tested positive for COVID-19 in less than three weeks.

UF’s COVID-19 dashboard — which mostly displays cumulative numbers since May — has had modifications to its display in the past week, including charts displaying UF’s on-campus quarantine capacity and the number of positive cases added every day. But a constant increase in cases remains consistent.

Since campus reopened, Alachua County has seen its highest surge in cases since the pandemic started to affect the U.S., with over a quarter of its current total being added in the past three weeks.

UF’s dashboard splits student cases into two categories: those tested at the Student Health Care Center and those tested through the Return-to-Campus Initiative, the university’s testing program that students can opt into through a questionnaire. These statistics are displayed cumulatively on the dashboard — 525 and 505 students have tested positive since May, for each statistic respectively.

The Student Health Care Center has tested 894 people since Aug. 31, meaning it has had a 36.8% positivity rate this semester, contrary to the dashboard’s 26.9% positivity since May.

Meanwhile, the Return-to-Campus Initiative has tested 2,916 students since Aug. 31, meaning it has had a 15.6% positivity rate this semester, contrary to the dashboard’s 3.61% positivity since May.

The dashboard displays 45 positive cases among UF faculty, but only 17 have tested positive this semester — all of them tested positive in the past week. So far, 87 faculty have been tested, meaning this semester’s positivity rate among UF employees is 19.5%, contrary to the dashboard’s 0.36% positivity since May.

But, these three statistics only account for 802 of the 1,297 positive cases this semester. This is because these sections of the dashboard don’t account for people who test themselves off campus through their own doctors or places like CVS. 

The actual total is at the bottom of the page, labeled “Cases Identified and Followed Among UF Affiliates,” which currently sits at 2,233, an increase of 1,297 since Aug. 31.

UF affiliates are students, faculty and “other UF-related individuals,” according to the dashboard. This number includes those who were tested off campus, said Ken Garcia, spokesperson for UF Health.

Because COVID-19 is a contagious disease, positive cases are reported to the Florida Department of Health, which then reports cases to UF through a database called MERLIN.

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“Because of our relationship with the Florida Department of Health, we get a list of all new reported cases and cross-match that with the master UF Person database,” Garcia wrote in an email. “If we get a match, we define that person as a UF affiliate and our team begins the investigation and orders isolation and quarantine of contacts.”

The total number of cases identified among UF affiliates includes positive tests reported to UF through the Florida Department of Health as well as people who test positive on campus.

The dashboard reports that 1,095 people are currently in quarantine — both on and off campus. This is lower than the total number of positive cases because some people have already finished their time in quarantine this semester.

The dashboard now includes charts that track UF’s on-campus quarantine capacity, which is currently 14% filled. Capacity peaked at 16% from Sept. 11 through Sept. 14, but it has since declined. In the past day, capacity rose from 13% to 14%.

UF’s on-campus quarantining procedures faced criticism from some students last week. The university has since responded.

Now, the dashboard also has a chart that tracks the total number of positive cases UF records each day, rather than only displaying cumulative numbers. These daily totals include those tested on and off campus. 

Previously, these two charts were on a separate page, but were moved onto the main dashboard this week.

“We are also working on some upgrades to our data dashboard designed to help provide a clearer picture, in a timely manner, of the current situation on campus since the start of the fall semester,” Garcia wrote.

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