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Frequently asked questions on Stanford COVID dashboards

September 14, 2020

Below are questions and answers regarding the Stanford COVID Dashboards.


The dashboards report both the results of Stanford’s COVID-19 surveillance testing and “total confirmed positive cases” for both students and faculty/staff/postdocs going back to March 2020. Why are the data reported in this way, and what is the distinction between these measures?

Now that Stanford has begun providing ongoing COVID-19 surveillance testing for on-site members of our community, we believe it is important to share the results of this testing with our community. The graphical displays on the website show the results of this surveillance testing being provided by the university, which began at the end of August 2020. Also, across all time periods, the graphical displays show the results of testing that was provided or facilitated by the university Occupational Health Center (for faculty, staff and postdocs); and, for students, the results of COVID-19 tests undertaken or facilitated by Vaden Health Center, as well the results of student-athlete surveillance testing for COVID.

In addition, the dashboards report cumulative numbers of positive COVID-19 test results that the university is aware of for members of our community going back to March 2020, wherever they obtained their test results. These cumulative numbers include the test results from Stanford that are shown in the graphical displays, but they also include results from other testing providers.

How are the “total confirmed positive cases” defined?

For students, “total confirmed positive cases” reflects positive test results among students who were living on, or near, the Stanford campus at the time of their positive test result and who made their test result known to Vaden, going back to March 2020. It does not include students who were living elsewhere around the country or world.

For faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars, “total confirmed positive cases” reflects positive test results that were made known to Stanford primarily through Health Check or through notification from the hospital and confirmed with a Stanford clinician, going back to March 2020. These individuals may or may not have been working on-site at Stanford at the time of their positive test result.

Why is Stanford reporting positive cases for students living on or near the Stanford campus, as opposed to those living anywhere around the country or world?

Since March, many Stanford students have been living elsewhere across the country and around the world, and many undergraduates continue to do so this autumn quarter. These individuals are encouraged to report positive test results to Stanford, but we cannot be certain that all are doing so. When individuals ask how many COVID-19 cases there have been among students “at Stanford,” we believe it is most meaningful to provide a number for those living on or near the Stanford campus.

What does “living on or near the Stanford campus” mean?

At Stanford, or in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Alameda, or San Francisco counties.

Stanford’s website had reported a total of 137 COVID-19 cases among members of the university community as of early September. What is the number now, and what has changed?

When we began publicly reporting COVID-19 case counts in the Stanford community in the spring of 2020, we had just begun a “shelter in place” in which many students had gone home and most university employees were working from home. We adopted a mode of reporting any positive test result the university learned about, involving any member of our community, wherever they were living across the country or around the world. That method of counting produced the 137 number on the website as of early September.

At this point, we believe it most meaningful to do two things: First, report the results of the surveillance testing we have now begun directly providing for members of our community; and second, report cumulative numbers over time that are more meaningful for understanding the presence of COVID-19 “at Stanford.”

As of the dashboards’ launch on Sept. 14, the dashboards show 36 cumulative cases among students, defined as those living on or near the Stanford campus at the time of their positive test result. They also show 93 cases among faculty, staff and postdocs who reported their test result to Stanford through our Health Check app, or through notification from the hospital and confirmed with a Stanford clinician. The total includes all School of Medicine personnel including those in patient-facing clinical settings.

In recent months, Stanford’s website has reported very limited numbers of current, positive COVID-19 cases among students who were living on campus. The new dashboard reports there have been a total of 36 cases, updated as of Sept. 14, among students living “on or near campus” over the last several months. What accounts for the difference?

The current number reported on the dashboard goes back to the beginning of the pandemic, and it includes students living in the surrounding area, not just those residing in on-campus housing at the time of their positive test result.