New tools for sharing COVID-19 data

Faculty, staff and students,

Last Wednesday, I wrote you regarding our latest COVID-19 testing results and explained how we are pivoting from mass entry testing to a new testing strategy for the rest of the semester.

In that message, I also explained that we would launch a new approach to share testing results and related data. I am pleased to share that approach with you today.

First, the Pandemic Medical Advisory Team has developed a dashboard to aggregate and share COVID-19 data in a robust and meaningful way. The dashboard includes metrics such as total positive cases, positivity rates and KU Student Housing quarantine and isolation data. Beginning today, this dashboard will be updated and published every Tuesday and Friday at Protect KU.

Additionally, the Pandemic Medical Advisory Team has developed a short-term forecasting model to help team members advise KU and county officials. This model will provide two-week forecasts of key metrics such as new positive cases and hospitalizations. Beginning next week, we will publish an updated forecast once a week at Protect KU.

Collectively, these two tools will be very useful to the Pandemic Medical Advisory Team in its role as an advisory group to KU and county leaders. Additionally, I think you will find the dashboard and forecasting model to be helpful to you in our ongoing community conversations about campus operations and strategies.

Considerations when evaluating testing results and data

There are a few points to keep in mind as you make use of the dashboard:

It should be noted our new dashboard incorporates symptomatic testing data from Watkins Health Services that were not part of our mass testing results. These new data account for some of the fluctuation you will notice in today’s results compared to previous weeks’ results.

As mentioned above, both the dashboard and short-term forecast will be updated regularly at Protect KU. We do not plan to provide a campus message with each update but will do so whenever necessary to address meaningful changes in data or strategies. Additionally, we will continue to provide updates via our Chancellor’s Weekly COVID-19 Update videos and The University of Kansas Health System’s Morning Media Updates.

As I described in last week’s message, we have transitioned from mass entry testing to a new testing strategy that will deploy tests in three ways: 1) symptomatic individual testing; 2) targeted testing for confirmed contacts of positive individuals, and 3) randomized prevalence testing. Because this new testing strategy will include a larger proportion of symptomatic or close contact tests, we fully expect to see higher positivity rates in our data in the days ahead.

Thank you for your work

As we’ve said all along, we knew that reopening campus and conducting extensive testing would result in known positive cases. Our testing results so far remain in line with what we’ve expected and are prepared to manage. Importantly, it is still the case that we know of no hospitalizations associated with our testing efforts. 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.

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. We will continue to keep you informed of new developments.

Thank you for all you are doing to help us prioritize the health and safety of our community.



Douglas A. Girod