ASU will update COVID-19 positivity percentage after misleading figure

Percent positives should be calculated using number of tests, yielding a rate of 1.29%, not 0.6%, for students

The University’s COVID-19 management framework page does not include the percent of positive cases found within tests collected by ASU, but a University spokesperson confirmed the school is working to update the page. 

ASU has collected test results of 37,149 students and employees, with 480 of them testing positive for COVID-19, the management page said. The positivity rate among those tested so far within the ASU community is roughly 1.29%, which was not accurately calculated in the initial update posted late Friday. 

Friday’s update only included positivity rates that divided the total number of positives by the student and faculty populations, rather than the number of completed tests, misconstruing the data and not reflecting a positivity rate that is recommended by Johns Hopkins University for data comparison and analysis

The Friday update said 0.6% of students have the virus in the University's "total campus immersion student body of 74,500." The "total campus immersion student body" number still includes students who are not attending in-person classes, chose to stay at home or may even live in another state or country. 

The page also said that 0.2% of the 12,400 staff and faculty on campus tested positive. In displaying the percentage this way, the University's data did not list the percent positive within the community that had been tested. 

Though the percentages released are not inaccurate, they do not display the percentage of positive cases of those actually tested, or how campus is being impacted by COVID-19. The total positivity rate is double what the University reported Friday.

According to an article published in early August by Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, the percent positive allows researchers to determine transmission rates and the effectiveness of testing. 

"The percent positive is a critical measure because it gives us an indication how widespread infection is in the area where the testing is occurring — and whether levels of testing are keeping up with levels of disease transmission," the article said. 

Policy at the University for information on cases in the community is to direct students to zip code data where there is a high concentration of ASU students – such as the four main campuses zip codes of 85281, 85004, 85306 and 85212. 

The University is currently working with the Arizona Department of Health Services to produce data from ASU’s campus zip codes to show the virus trends, the management page said, something University officials have repeatedly promised is being developed.

According to zip code tracking done internally by The State Press, which tracks all four campus zip codes in Maricopa county, and an additional zip code in Tempe, cases have remained steady over the past week in all but the 85281 Tempe campus zip code. 

Data from ADHS Saturday showed the zip code had 2,038 cases, a 134 case increase from the previous day's 1,904 total cases.

ADHS reported on Saturday there were 629 new COVID-19 cases in the state.


Reach the reporters at pjhanse1@asu.edu and wmyskow@asu.edu and follow @piperjhansen and @wmyskow on Twitter. 

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