SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — With South Dakota’s public universities back in session as of Monday, August 23, the institutions must once again face the reality of COVID-19 as they head into the Fall semester. But this semester is different. Things have changed. As vaccinations have become more widespread, so too has the Delta variant.
With time to prepare and a year of experience under their belts, the universities are going into the school year with the task of tracking COVID infections on campus. Below, KELOLAND News takes a look at the COVID-19 dashboards and the current situations of the state’s six public universities.
As of August 25, BHSU shows a total of 9 cases among students and none among staff. Their COVID-19 dashboard states that data is self-reported and includes students, faculty and staff at both the Main Campus in Spearfish and at the Rapid City location.
As of August 25, DSU in Madison is reporting 3 active cases among students. According to their dashboard, in addition to these active cases, 14 employees and/or students are in quarantine/isolation, including one who is quarantining/isolating in a campus facility. Along with their dashboard, DSU also lists preventative actions such as getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, social distancing and more.
As of August 25, NSU is not currently listing any active cases, though their dashboard is up and running. Their page notes that their dashboard includes self-reported cases from faculty, staff and students.
As of August 24, SDSMT is reporting 6 active cases. The School of Mines breaks its infections down into three categories: All cases, student cases and faculty/staff cases. All 6 cases currently listed are recorded as student cases. This is up from Monday, when they were reporting 3 total cases. Their page also notes that their dashboard includes self-reported cases from faculty, staff and students.
The University of South Dakota has been tracking active cases since August 14, at which point they had a total of 2 active student cases. As of August 25, USD is reporting 9 total cases; 6 among students and 3 among employees. Like the other schools above, USD’s dashboard comprises self-reported information from students and staff.
As of 4:15 p.m. on August 25, SDSU has not yet launched its COVID-19 dashboard. A representative from the media relations office noted that the dashboard will likely be launching this week. That representative said that at the time they were not aware of whether or not there were any active cases among SDSU students or staff.
KELOLAND’s Lauren Soulek was in Vermillion Wednesday and spoke with Kevin O’Kelley, USD’s Assistant Vice President for Research, who is running the University’s COVID Taskforce.
“Students and staff self-report their status to our website — to our email — the second way we find out is through the Department of Health (DOH). COVID-19 is a reportable disease and a positive diagnosis requires reporting to the Department of Health,” said O’Kelley.
The third way that O’Kelley said positive cases are reported is through student health. “If a student signs a release when they get tested to have those results communicated to the university, I’ll get those results,” he said.
O’Kelley says contact tracing is not done by the university, but is instead handled by the Department of Health.
KELOLAND’s Jacob Newton spoke with DSU’s Angi Kappenman, Vice President for Human Resources and COVID Monitoring Team Leader about the Madison school’s tracking efforts.
“We have different mechanisms set up for students and faculty to communicate with us,” said Kappenman. “We have a COVID email system — that allows anyone to respond to the COVID monitoring team.”
Like USD, DSU also works with the DOH to monitor COVID cases. “Anytime somebody does test positive and they identify as being a student or employee here, we have a point of contact with the South Dakota Department of Health that we work through contact tracing with,” said Kappenman.
Kappenman said that DSU has set aside certain student housing structures, smaller residences such as the one below, for students needing to quarantine or isolate.
Kappenman says the DSU dashboard updates every afternoon. In addition to this, the school also sends out a daily update via email to all students and staff to inform them of the current COVID status on campus. Below is an example of the email sent daily.