ASU successfully launched its fall semester on Thursday, August 20, welcoming more than 127,500 students in multiple learning modalities.
I walk the campus every day and talk to students who are here attending classes with us and employees who keep this place going. There is great energy at the university – students, faculty and staff are excited to be back; students are thankful to have the choice and flexibility that we’ve offered through ASU Sync; and students are optimistic about the future despite the ongoing global pandemic.
I’m an eternal optimist. Those who know me know there isn’t a challenge that I come across that I think can’t be solved by hard work, ingenuity and a great team. And my conversations with students only bolster my optimism about managing through everything that COVID has thrown our way.
You are familiar with our COVID management framework. In short, it is our expectation that COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon and that we must find a way to operate the university in a way that accounts for the ongoing presence of the virus. That is why we have invented testing technology, built health check apps, and established extensive protocols to help manage the virus in our community. One of those protocols is our testing strategy.
ASU has implemented a rigorous ongoing testing protocol among students and employees. We are proud to have designed, built and deployed an FDA-approved rapid saliva-based PCR test to the ASU community (and the broader statewide community) that provides highly accurate test results in 24-48 hours. Because we know that the age demographic of our students means that they are almost always asymptomatic, we knew that ongoing testing needed to be a part of our management strategy to be able to truly understand what is happening with the virus within the ASU community.
Approximately 20 percent of our students live in residence halls, most of which are apartment-style living. We required proof of a negative test before students moved into their residence hall. We currently have testing blitzes taking place across our campuses – not because there are outbreaks, but to prevent them and manage them if they occur. Testing is available daily for any employee, student or affiliate who needs a test. And, we announced last week that we will require ongoing testing of a percentage of our students, employees and affiliates coming to campus. We will collect a statistically-significant sample of our community, as determined by epidemiologists, and create a current picture of what is happening with the virus within our community.
Let me be clear: Our testing strategy is among the most comprehensive and thorough in the US.
As was expected, and continues to be expected, testing will yield results that require members of the ASU community to self-isolate. We are prepared for this. Since January of 2020, ASU has been managing COVID-19 cases on and off our campuses. The university has protocols in place to manage students who test positive or may have been exposed to someone who is positive.
We currently have about 100,000 students and employees across our four campuses in metropolitan Phoenix, coming to the university on staggered days to maintain physical distancing. Since August 1, we have collected test results from 32,729 students and employees. Currently, ASU has 161 known positive cases within our community. Please keep in mind this number includes students and employees across our four metropolitan campuses and includes students living on and off campus throughout the broader community.
I know there has been and will continue to be interest in this number. What I am committing to are regular updates about our COVID management strategy.
COVID management will require us to make changes and adjustments on a daily basis. Today, I am further clarifying some of our policies related to conduct:
- Students engaged – whether hosting or attending - in social gatherings on or off campus that do not adhere to public health protocols will be subject to suspension.
- Face coverings have been required in all ASU buildings. They have also been required in outdoor spaces when social distancing hasn’t been possible. Effective immediately, face coverings are required at all times in all ASU outdoor spaces (except when eating).
- We have a no-visitor policy in our residence halls – this includes students who live in other residence halls. Students who violate the no-visitor policy will be subject to suspension and evicted from university housing.
- All students and employees must comply with our Community of Care guidelines to be on campus.
Here is the most important thing to remember: COVID-19 is here and will be here for the foreseeable future so everyone needs to take personal responsibility for their actions and behavior. We need everyone to follow all public health protocols: wear a mask, practice physical distancing, complete your daily health check, stay home when you are sick, wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. That is the only way that we will be able to effectively manage COVID-19.
Thank you for your continued commitment to keeping ASU healthy.
Michael M. Crow