Some California universities are tracking vaccination rates and the number of students in isolation and quarantine; others are reporting numbers of confirmed COVID cases on campus. (Courtesy Julie Leopo/EdSource)(Courtesy Julie Leopo/EdSource)

Some California universities are tracking vaccination rates and the number of students in isolation and quarantine; others are reporting numbers of confirmed COVID cases on campus. (Courtesy Julie Leopo/EdSource)(Courtesy Julie Leopo/EdSource)

How California universities are tracking campus COVID cases

Cal State and UC campuses have dashboards, but details vary

By Ashley A. Smith and Michael Burke

EdSource

All across the state, the University of California and California State University campuses have created COVID-19 data dashboards that include details about case rates among students, staff and faculty.

However, dashboard details vary from campus to campus. In some cases, the dashboards include data on vaccination rates and the number of students who are in isolation and quarantine. But others may only have one sentence or a data point showing the number of confirmed COVID cases on their campuses.

The California State University Office of the Chancellor also maintains a statewide database that combines information collected from its 23 campuses, along with data from the California Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Systemwide, as of Aug. 31, 250 new COVID-19 cases among students, staff, faculty and contractors were reported on Cal State campuses, according to the Chancellor’s Office database. And 431 new cases were reported off-campuses at that time. However, those numbers may be lower than the actual number of cases because there isn’t a requirement for off-campus faculty members, staff or students to report COVID-19 positivity.

The Cal State campus with the highest number of COVID-19 cases, according to the systemwide database, is San Diego State. The campus’s separate dashboard shows 104 confirmed on-campus cases between Aug. 20 and Wednesday among students and seven confirmed cases among on-campus faculty members and staff during that same time.

For campus leaders, the dashboards aren’t just about examining the absolute number of cases on their campuses. During a news conference last week, Cal State Long Beach President Jane Conoley said she’s also interested in “fallout of those cases” — how quickly other people are getting sick and whether to close parts of campus.

“We all have to accept that there’s no perfect COVID-moment here,” Conoley said. “But we can manage and keep the great majority of people safe again if they all follow the health protocols that we’ve put into place.”

The Long Beach dashboard includes the number of vaccinations administered on campus to faculty, staff and students — 13,300 as of the most recent update. But that doesn’t include the number of shots received by students, staff and faculty at off-campus vaccination sites. As of Sept. 6, 22 students and three faculty members or staff who had been on campus in the last 30 days tested positive for COVID-19.

UC Berkeley and UC Merced are the only two UC campuses that are on the semester schedule and where fall classes have started. Berkeley’s dashboard shows a significant jump in testing and positive cases coinciding with students returning to campus for the fall. Between Aug. 24 and Sept. 7, there were 145 total cases among students and staff, a positivity rate of 0.6 percent.

At Merced, case rates are slightly higher. As of Aug. 30, when the dashboard was last updated, the seven-day positivity rate was 1.36 percent among students and 2.44 percent among staff.

Berkeley’s dashboard also shows that 97 percent of undergraduate students, 97 percent of graduate students and 90 percent of staff are fully vaccinated.

Each UC campus is aiming to have at least 90 percent of its campus populations vaccinated this fall, but dashboards show that not all campuses have yet reached that mark. At UC Santa Cruz, for example, 80 percent of students and 69 percent of staff are vaccinated as of Sept. 7.

UC San Diego’s dashboard tracks the physical location of positive cases. For example, the dashboard includes a chart showing where infected individuals were presented over the last 14 days. Since Sept. 3, COVID-19 positive individuals were present at three different art buildings on campus as well as an on-campus apartment building.

UC San Diego is also testing wastewater from campus buildings for COVID-19, and the campus dashboard includes a map showing where COVID-19 has been detected from that testing. The map shows, for example, that a positive case was detected on Sept. 7 at the T. Denny Sanford Medical Education and Telemedicine Center at the university’s School of Medicine.

EdSource is a nonprofit newsroom that reports on state and local education issues.

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