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Virginia Tech, Radford University unveil COVID-19 data dashboards

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MG VT Move In 081420 (copy)

Incoming Virginia Tech freshman Samantha Turner (center) of Long Island, New York, had help Friday moving in from her parents Michelle and Rob.

Virginia Tech and Radford University have separately unveiled data dashboards about campus COVID-19 cases.

Radford reported an overall positivity rate of 0.75% out of 1,470 tests given Aug. 1-14, which amounts to about 11 individuals. The dashboard, posted online Tuesday, says data is current as of Friday.

The dashboard, which does not include any additional information, will be updated weekly.

Tech reported an overall positivity rate of 0.14% out of 3,663 tests given Aug. 9-16, which amounts to five positive cases of COVID-19.

Tech released the dashboard Wednesday following a statement from President Tim Sands on Tuesday that discussed those test results and plans for reopening.

The dashboard will be updated every Monday, according to the university.

Tech’s dashboard also shows that one student resided in a campus isolation space as of Sunday.

“We had one true positive test result,” resulting in a student moving into isolation, wrote Michael Stowe, a Tech spokesman, in an email, noting that the university is not testing for antibodies. “Four students tested positive — but had previously recovered from confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections prior to coming to campus. These students are no longer considered contagious as determined by the department of health. Isolation is not needed in such cases.”

Several colleges nationwide have published public dashboards on COVID-19 cases as a way to keep their communities informed.

“Timely and transparent information will help us work together effectively in support of our ongoing efforts to protect the health and safety of our communities, both on and off campus,” Sands said in a news release announcing the dashboard.

After reporting its first on-campus positive COVID-19 case in late March, Tech declined to identify any source of other cases that emerged in Montgomery County. And throughout the summer, the university declined repeatedly to release data on testing results of student-athletes, saying release of such data would violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Since its dashboard contains only data about thousands of individuals, it is not in violation of federal health privacy laws, Tech officials say.

Dr. Noelle Bissell, director of the New River Health District, said the health department wouldn’t break out data related to universities. Data related to Tech students, for example, are included in Montgomery County numbers. The department has also lumped the Blacksburg ZIP code that contains campus housing into the town’s ZIP code to protect privacy, she said.

Staff writer Sam Wall contributed information to this report.

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Radford's positive COVID-19 cases have exponentially risen over the last week but the city's cases are starting to plateau, according to the director of the New Rive Health District. Dr. Noelle Bissell told reporters in a conference call Tuesday afternoon that while the cases had nearly tripled from 166 a week ago to 467 as of Tuesday, according to state numbers, the city should start to see numbers drop in the near future.

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