Different schools, different data: How Triangle-area colleges report public COVID numbers


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Triangle is home to two of the six colleges that have had the most reported coronavirus cases, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

The newspaper gathered the case counts at colleges and universities across the country earlier this week in an attempt to track the spread of COVID-19 throughout higher education.

As of Tuesday, among schools that publicly reported their case counts, the University of North Carolina had the second-most total cases since the pandemic began with 835 while N.C. State had the sixth-most with 509.

But those numbers were soon out of date — as of Friday afternoon, UNC had listed 999 total cases — 945 students and 54 employees — on its online dashboard while N.C. State was up to 739 — 704 of which are students.

And with case counts climbing on campuses across the state and the country, CBS 17 News found some differences in the way local schools report their numbers to the public. Most schools release some basic figures — case and testing counts, for example — but some schools’ statistical breakdowns are significantly more involved.

A spokesman for the UNC System did not respond to a query from CBS 17 asking if there’s a standard that its colleges and universities are supposed to follow.

UNC has the most comprehensive dashboard, with its cases since Aug. 10 broken down by date along with occupancy rates at on-campus housing and the availability of protective equipment — including masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant — evaluated by a color-coded scale.

A screen shot of UNC’s COVID-19 data dashboard captured Friday.

The school said its website was created with input from the campus community along with health officials and its infectious disease and data experts so that people “had a resource for monitoring a range of data points.”

N.C. State unveiled a revamped dashboard Friday that also includes a graphs of daily cases since Aug. 10, along with total tests and positive results, and the number of quarantine rooms available. 

A screen shot of N.C. State’s COVID-19 data dashboard captured Friday.

Spokesman Mick Kulikowksi said the dashboard “attempts to show — with transparency and clarity — the effects of COVID-19 on the NC State community” and that it “is also constantly evolving to provide even more visual clarity.”

A look at Duke’s student-specific COVID-19 data Friday.

Duke updates its dashboard weekly, and in addition to its testing totals and case count, the private institution includes a breakdown of how many people are in precautionary quarantine along with how many have been released from quarantine.

North Carolina Central, meanwhile, only lists the number of students, employees and subcontractors that are known to have tested positive since July 1.

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