SDSU to continue use of COVID-19 dashboard


Colette Gannon, Reporter (She/Her)

After a fall semester with a COVID-19 dashboard on its website, South Dakota State University will continue its use indefinitely. 

“We will keep it up until it’s not needed anymore…when we don’t have cases or we don’t feel the need to give updates,” said Laura Dirks, SDSU’s public health specialist whose main focus includes the COVID-19 response on campus.

The dashboard has served as a resource for students, staff and community members to get updates on COVID-19.

“The goal was to take a unified approach to reporting our own self-reported data, so each university is consistent in what we are putting out,” Dirks said.

While the COVID-19 dashboard serves an important role, Janelle Toman, the director of communications at the South Dakota Board of Regents and an assigned member to the South Dakota Department of Health’s Focused Team on Childcare, Schools and Universities stresses that the data is unofficial.

“Campus officials receive voluntary reports about positive cases,” she said. “We do stress that our data, shown on the public university dashboards, is unofficial and voluntary, self-reported data as shared with us by individual students, staff members and faculty.”

Due to the voluntary nature of the data shown on the dashboard, both Dirks and Toman insist that the SD Department of Health is the best resource for official case information. 

“The South Dakota Department of Health is the official entity for COVID-19 reporting and statistics and is the best resource,” Dirks said.

Despite its self-reported nature, the COVID-19 dashboard still serves as a simple way for community members to receive important updates. The color coated classification system as seen on the top of SDSU’s homepage acts as an almost second nature status update. 

“It just gives an idea of where we are at right now based on the different criteria we’re looking at … we thought that the colors rather than a number or some other scale represented better where we are … green, yellow, orange, and red is kind of an inherent pattern that everyone is comfortable with,” Dirks said.

As mandated by SDBOR, similar COVID-19 dashboards are featured on each SDBOR campus website. According to Dirks, SDBOR requires that criteria be met on each individual campus’s dashboard, including the total number of active student and staff cases, the number of faculty, students and staff isolating off campus and the number of faculty, staff and students isolating on campus. 

“Each campus maintains and updates its dashboard, so there is a great degree of autonomy,” Toman said.

This autonomy is where stylistic differences and minor differences between each campus’s dashboard come into play. An example of this includes the template differences and update times.

“We don’t all use the same webpage template,” Dirks said. “A school of mine updates theirs at the end of the day, and SDSU updates theirs at noon.”

To view SDSU’s COVID-19 Dashboard and get more information, visit