How many people at your college have COVID-19? In Mississippi, it’s hard to track

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Since classes began for Mississippi’s eight public universities less than a month ago, there have been a total of at least 896 students, faculty and staff members who have contracted the coronavirus.

College campuses are expected to become the new COVID hotspots, with infections rising as students return to campus and share living spaces and common areas. All public colleges in Mississippi began class on Aug. 17, except the University of Mississippi, which started Aug. 24.

It is difficult to gauge the scale of infections at the state’s public colleges and universities because they are not required to disclose this information to the public and those that do all use different metrics. The Mississippi Department of Health recently started reporting K-12 cases by county, but there is no weekly report yet for the state’s higher education institutions.

All universities except for Alcorn are publishing case count numbers on their websites, though each school is doing it very differently.

For example, the University of Mississippi’s dashboard contains detailed case counts and other trends, but is missing the vital metric of disclosing how many tests have been performed. Without knowing that, it’s impossible to know the positivity rate, which tells how widespread infections are in an area.

The University of Southern Mississippi includes this metric but publicly updates its numbers weekly, not daily.

Delta State University’s dashboard only gives the cumulative total of infections since classes began, so it’s unknown what the day to day totals are.

Jackson State University has not updated its tracker since Aug. 19 and also does not include the total number of tests conducted; Mississippi Valley State University’s tracker also doesn’t include this information.

Mississippi State University’s dashboard does include the total number of tests conducted, but doesn’t say how many cases are still active

The Mississippi University for Women’s dashboard does not enumerate its daily totals and also doesn’t disclose how many people have been tested.