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ASU opens its doors and prepares for inevitable COVID-19 cases

ASU officials cannot say there won't be cases on campus but they have set protocols for when they show up.

PHOENIX — The first coronavirus case in Arizona was reported in January. It was an Arizona State University community member who traveled to Wuhan, China. The school sent students home a few weeks later after the virus began spreading throughout the state. 

Students went back to class for the first time in months Thursday. Despite the steps to keep students and faculty on campus safe, there is no guarantee that the campus will be COVID free.

“We have had positive cases within the ASU community and continue to have positive cases within the ASU community,” said the university Vice President of Media, Katie Paquet. 

University officials said that they expect to see positive cases on campus but have set up isolation dorms for students who test positive. 

“Any student who goes into isolation, will have a team of individuals from the university to work with them daily to make sure they have their health care needs taken care of,” said Paquet. 

Classes are now smaller and staggered for in-person instruction. All students and faculty are required to wear masks inside ASU buildings. 

Students living on campus needed proof of a negative test before moving into the dorms with periodic testing to make sure no one is positive and they have started noticing the difference. 

“Very different, a little weird,” said junior Caroline D’Agostino.  

ASU officials said they are learning from other universities like the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame who had to shut down after the virus spread and will make changes if needed. 

Students said they hope those changes won’t include closing campus.  

“I just hope everything will go back to normal soon and people take this seriously,” said D'Agostino.  

In a statement Paquet said: 

ASU has implemented a rigorous testing protocol among students and employees. Our expectations are, and will continue to be, that testing will yield results that require members of the ASU community to self-isolate. The university has protocols in place to manage students who test positive or may have been exposed to someone who is positive. We remind all members of the ASU community to continue to adhere to public health protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 including wearing face coverings, practicing physical distancing, staying home when sick, avoiding large group activities, washing hands regularly and to avoid touching your face.

Here is the list of preventative measures the university has taken: 

Three modalities for classes to meet students and faculty where they are depending on location or circumstance as a result of COVID-19 — ASU immersion, ASU Sync and iCourses.

  • Courses with 100 or more students operating in ASU Sync only.
  • Courses with fewer than 100 students set up with staggered in-person attendance to adhere to social distancing measures.
  • All faculty operating labs have had to submit a safety plan approved by the chair and dean.
  • Mandatory face coverings in all ASU buildings at all times. Mandatory face coverings in ASU outdoor community spaces where social distancing isn’t possible.
  • COVID-19 testing at no charge for all students and employees.
  • Mandatory testing and proof of a negative test for students before moving into a residence hall and regular, ongoing required testing of subsets of students, employees and business partners on campus.
  • No visitors in residence halls.
  • Lounges and kitchens in residence halls locked where possible and available for use by appointment only.
  • Physical access to university libraries limited to ASU students and employees only via Sun Card. Visitors welcome by appointment only. Library furniture reconfigured, study-room capacity lowered and some computers removed to ensure physical distancing.
  • Medical-grade and repeated cleaning of all ASU spaces.
  • Community of Care kits with face coverings, hand sanitizer, thermometers and other personal hygiene items provided to all students and employees.
  • No social gatherings on campus. Students participating in activities off campus designed to purposefully disregard public health protocols will be held accountable through the Student Code of Conduct.
  • Daily health check required for all students and employees designed to identify COVID-19 symptoms and restrict on-campus activity and interaction with others if symptoms are identified.
  • Community of Care training required for all students and employees.
  • Plexiglas barriers in high-frequency areas and touchless technology installed.
  • Takeout only in dining halls.
  • In-person and telehealth services for all students.
  • Reduced intercampus shuttle capacity.
  • Visitors to ASU locations required to adhere to our protocols.
  • Active engagement with the municipalities our campuses are located in and surrounding businesses to seek commitment on adhering to public health protocols.
  • University-sponsored international travel is prohibited; domestic travel must be approved by a dean or vice president as well as an executive vice president.
  • Staffing plans that adhere to social distancing protocols.