ASU Reports More Than 800 COVID-19 Cases Among Students, Staff

ASU Reports More Than 800 COVID-19 Cases Among Students, Staff

By Jessica Swarner

September 2, 2020

“I just don’t see this as a sustainable option.” 

Elena Pierson doesn’t leave her frustrations over having to return to Arizona State University campus during a pandemic up to the imagination. 

The senior has been going to class wearing a homemade T-shirt reading “[Gov. Doug] Ducey Wants Me Dead.”

While most classes have online options, some of the art classes that Pierson needs to graduate this winter are only available in person. 

“Overall, I just don’t see this as a sustainable option,” she told The Copper Courier. “I’m thankful I’m not living on campus, but a friend of mine that is said masks are there and sometimes they’re not. So that’s where I’m seeing what will probably be the downfall of ASU. I don’t imagine that they can stay open this entire semester.” 

More than 800 students and staff at Arizona State University have tested positive for COVID-19, the school reported Monday. As a result, the school announced the following day that it was shifting student residents around to increase distance and further disperse them across residence halls.

That’s an increase of over 300 cases, or an almost 70% jump, since 480 cases were reported Friday

ASU reported that 428 cases are considered off-campus, while 323 students are being kept in isolation on the Tempe campus. The others in isolation are on the downtown and West campuses; no cases have been reported yet at the Polytechnic campus. 

RELATED: More Than 5,000 Arizonans Have Died From COVID-19

Despite warnings that reopening could lead to outbreaks, the university has been hosting students in dorms and on campus for classes.

Other schools across the country have opted to keep learning all online this semester due to COVID-19 risk. 

Some schools attempted to reopen in person but closed again due to outbreaks, including University of North Carolina, where clusters of cases were reported in three dormitories and a fraternity house. 

Since students returned to campus, photos of large gatherings and student parties both on and off campus have emerged, highlighting the little control ASU has over students’ behavior. 

Rep. Athena Salman (D-Tempe) sent a letter to ASU President Dr. Michael Crow on Tuesday expressing concern over the rise in cases and the school’s policies. 

Salman said that while university leaders asked the community to trust in their plan for the fall, she has been shaken by reports of parties in dorms, inconsistent enforcement of mask-wearing, a lack of communication with positive students, and quarantined students not receiving enough food

She included a list of 14 questions for Crow, including who and how many people are working on contact tracing for the university, and about the protocol for reporting cases of off-campus students who start showing symptoms. 

“Now is the time to act by fully implementing the plan you announced earlier this year,” Slaman wrote. “Failure to do so not only jeopardizes the health and safety of those on your campuses but for all Arizonans who want their communities to continue their cautious reopening.” 

Pierson said she is wearing a mask on campus and doing her best to distance from others and stay safe, but it’s hard to see things getting better. 

RELATED: We Asked For COVID-Safe Reopening Guidelines. For Our Kid’s Sake, We Should Follow Them.

“To put profit over people and ask students to come from all around the world, really, without any answers and then potentially ship them all back is really dangerous, selfish, and scary, frankly,” she said. 

Arizona’s other two public universities have also opened dorms and classrooms. 

As of Thursday, the University of Arizona reported 46 cases. The school made national headlines after it was able to identify two asymptomatic students by analyzing dorms’ wastewater and quarantine them before the virus could spread further. 

Northern Arizona University reported seven cases as of this weekend. Classes started Monday.

Arizona has been welcoming to reopening in general, with Gov. Ducey originally pushing for people to patronize businesses after the stay-at-home order expired in May. A resulting spike in cases caused certain business to be closed again, but now that numbers have been on the decline for a few weeks, those businesses were allowed to reopen Thursday.

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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