How the COVID-19 dashboard has changed over the year

Ainsley Platt, Contributing Writer

Since August 2020, the UA System COVID-19 Dashboard has been the primary source of information about the state of the virus across the UA System’s three campuses. 

Its design has changed during the pandemic, and so has the data reported to the dashboard. Still, it remains an official source of the University’s COVID-19 case counts and vaccine information. 

“The UA System COVID-19 Dashboard was created to provide clear, transparent and easily accessible information,” said Lynn Cole, UA System director of communications. “When developing the dashboard, clarity, ease of access and prioritization of the most important data points were kept top of mind.”

Case Counts

The dashboard is updated weekly, with positive test results for each of the system’s three campuses: The University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville. 

For each campus, the dashboard reports student and employee cases separately. Case counts are common across campus dashboards, with some variation. 

Six faculty and staff members and 10 students tested positive for COVID-19 from Oct. 11 to 17. There were 36 positive test results reported system-wide. 

More than 650 UA students have reported positive test results this semester. By this point in the fall semester last year, there were 2,680 cases reported among UA students.

Texas A&M University and the University of Florida break down their cases between active and new cases, and both schools report cases daily instead of weekly. 

At Texas A&M, cases are considered active until 10 days after the positive laboratory test was reported to the university. Generally, a new case is a laboratory-confirmed test result that has been reported either by the testing institution or by the individual infected. 

The University of Alabama relies on self-reported information for its data. Students and employees can self-report their vaccinations, and the University verifies 2% of provided vaccination cards monthly.  

According to Cole, the UA Health and Safety Task Force determined that weekly updates show more accurate trends in data that is less likely to be misinterpreted.


The original iteration of the dashboard last year included the results of sentinel, entry and exit testing, but The University of Alabama has fewer testing requirements this year. 

In fall 2020, all students were required to report a negative COVID-19 test before returning to campus, and the same requirement applied to a select number of students in spring 2021. This year, no students were required to submit a negative test result before the fall semester. 

The sentinel testing program was a random sampling of the campus population to track the spread of the virus, but the University discontinued its efforts before fall 2021. 

The University of Alabama’s dashboard does not report the number of tests conducted at on-campus testing sites or a percentage positivity rate. Right now, it’s unknown whether more or less tests are being conducted compared to last year. 

Cole said the removal of entry and sentinel testing from the dashboard was in line with UA policy. 

“When the UA System Health & Safety Task Force removed entry testing and sentinel testing requirements, those sections were removed from the dashboard,” she said.


Vaccine metrics are a new addition to the dashboard that break down the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines administered at each campus. The University now requires all employees to be vaccinated by Dec. 8 following President Joe Biden’s executive order requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The dashboard reports the percentage of faculty and staff who have received at least one vaccine dose, and the percentage of students who have received at least one vaccine dose. Those figures are reported for each campus. 

Currently, at least 61% of students and 72% of students have reported vaccinations using the online reporting tool, which was unavailable at the time of publication. 

Cole said vaccine data was added to the dashboard as vaccines became “available to and administered by our campuses.” 

The University of Florida’s dashboard was designed by UF Health in conjunction with UF IT and UF Communications and does not include vaccination data.

Since UF doesn’t collect reports of vaccinations, UF Health spokesperson Ken Garcia said this information is not displayed on the dashboard. 

Isolation and Quarantine Capacity

The UA System dashboard also reports the capacity of on-campus isolation and quarantine spaces. Cole said the data “is an important factor in determining a university’s ability to operate during the pandemic.” 

The University currently operates 171 housing units for those quarantining with COVID-19 compared to more than 500 units last year. Two quarantine spaces are in use as of Oct. 18. 

Some SEC universities have unique dashboard categories. Louisiana State University’s dashboard contains data on wastewater virus testing from their residence halls, with color coded warning levels corresponding to detected virus levels. 

“Leaders felt [that] for full transparency and to not catch anyone off guard, it would be best to include wastewater testing results into their COVID-19 dashboard,” LSU spokesperson Ernie Ballard said.

The University of South Carolina’s dashboard evaluates available health care and testing numbers to create a corresponding campus alert level.

The UA System COVID-19 Dashboard updates with new data every Monday afternoon.

Questions? Email the News desk at [email protected].