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State universities decline to release total COVID-19 case numbers for their campuses
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State universities decline to release total COVID-19 case numbers for their campuses

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The South Dakota Board of Regents announced Tuesday its public universities would release data dashboards detailing their COVID-19 case numbers.

But all six campuses — except for Black Hills State University — only show active cases. BHSU’s dashboard shows total number of cases, not active cases.

As of Thursday, those campuses are showing 207 active cases involving students and six total cases at BHSU.

Active cases show how many students and staff are infected with COVID-19 on a given day, whereas releasing the total number of cases on each campus would show the full scope of how many students and staff have had COVID-19 over the semester.

The South Dakota Department of Health has started sharing total cases for the universities on a weekly basis, updated each Monday. But the information is not broken down for each campus.

“The Board of Regents and/or the individual universities would be the most appropriate place to direct your question since they are responsible for the development and content of their respective dashboards,” said DOH spokesman Derrick Haskins when asked about the total number of cases on each campus.

When asked if universities could start sharing the number of total cases on each of their campuses, Janelle Toman, communications director for the SDBOR, said “our goal initially is to improve information sharing by providing a current snapshot of active cases on the campuses.”

“Based on the input and suggestions received from you and others, we will consider other enhancements or adjustments,” Toman said in an email to the Journal.

“We are only reporting the number of active cases because that information is in the public interest and has an impact on local public health decisions,” said Michelle Cwach, a spokeswoman for the University of South Dakota.

Mike Ray, communications for South Dakota Mines, said he would ask about the data for total cases and forward a request for total case information “up the chain of command.”

A spokesman for Northern State University pointed to the DOH’s statewide report when asked if the university could share the total number of cases on its campus. 

A spokeswoman for Dakota State University said “at this point, we, and the other regental institutions, are reporting active cases as of the date of posting” when asked about sharing the total number of cases.

When asked about any number of cases among athletes at BHSU, spokeswoman Corinne Hansen said “we won’t be releasing more details about students (clubs, athletics, majors, etc.) who test positive to protect the privacy of students.” Hansen said she would ask about sharing the number of active cases on campus.

A spokesman at South Dakota State University said "we worked off the guidance we received from the SDBOR to ensure consistency among all the institutions."

As of 1:30 p.m. Thursday, each campus had the following case counts:

  • Mines: 8 active student cases, 0 staff cases, 25 students and staff quarantined;

  • BHSU: 6 total student cases, 0 staff cases, 35 students and staff quarantined;

  • USD: 129 active student cases, 4 active staff cases, 493 students and staff quarantined;

  • SDSU: 57 active student cases, 0 staff cases, 183 students and staff quarantined;

  • DSU: 2 active student cases, 0 staff cases, 24 students and staff quarantined;

  • NSU: 7 active student cases, 0 staff cases, 22 students and staff quarantined.

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