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University of Minnesota Duluth launches COVID-19 dashboard on internal testing data

Following requests from the Board of Regents, each U of M campus will publish campus-specific COVID-19 updates.

University of Minnesota Duluth COVID-19 file
Champ makes an appearance wearing a mask while filming a video demonstrating proper mask etiquette while in Superior Dining on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus in August. (File / News Tribune)
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The University of Minnesota Duluth on Friday launched its COVID-19 dashboard , which will be updated every Friday to show the total number of tests administered and positive cases only among students tested at UMD Health Services.

During a U of M Board of Regents meeting Monday, board members urged the university to publish campus-specific COVID-19 data. UMD faculty and others in the system have also urged for updates on positive cases.

UMD Health Services currently only tests students who have COVID-19 symptoms or who have been in close contact for at least 15 minutes with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

UMD spokesperson Lynne Williams said she asks that people use caution when viewing the data since it's not complete and only shows the numbers of positive cases and conducted tests among students who got tested on campus.

"It's just internal testing," Williams said. "This does not represent the entire campus community."

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The data does not include cases among faculty and staff.

Students and employees tested off-campus are asked to report their case to the university, though it's ultimately up to the individual to decide whether they do. Contact tracers can also cue the university into cases affiliated with the campus.

When asked if the dashboard could evolve into showing those cases that have been reported to the university, Williams said the plan is to only report cases UMD can confirm through its on-campus testing.

The UMD dashboard also reports the number of quarantine and isolation rooms on campus that are available as well as how many of them are in use. UMD has set aside 49 rooms specifically for quarantine and isolation. Depending on various criteria, a room could house more than one student. There are 196 beds available.

As of Friday, Aug. 28, UMD Health Services has conducted five COVID-19 diagnostic tests, one of which has been positive. No isolation and quarantine rooms were in use.

Jake Ricker, public relations director for the U of M, said in an email to the News Tribune that the data-sharing abilities will vary greatly among the five campuses.

"I completely understand the desire for these online dashboards," Ricker said. "At the same time, it will be crucial that anyone viewing the data provided understands the limitations of that data and the caveats that need to be considered when analyzing it, especially if that data is being used to make broad assumptions about overall COVID-19 levels on any of our campuses."

The Duluth, Rochester and Twin Cities campuses have all delayed face-to-face instruction and move-in dates by at least two weeks.

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