ASU has transitioned all in-person classes to online effective March 16, due to concerns of COVID-19, known as the new coronavirus.
The online courses will be in effect for two weeks, a school-wide email from President Crow said.
Once the two weeks are over the University will assess the situation.
Courses will be shifted to an online format using Zoom and other platforms used at ASU, such as Canvas and LockDown Browser, to ensure that students have the “full resources of the institution” available to them while limiting the spread of COVID-19, according to a University representative.
As of March 11th, there are nine coronavirus cases in Arizona, including three in Maricopa County which holds ASU’s largest campuses.
Seven of these tests are awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and there are 32 pending tests.
ASU's announcement comes after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic March 11th. Worldwide cases have risen to over 180,000, and U.S. cases to over 1,000.
ASU began piloting the Zoom program prior to spring break to prepare on-campus classes for the possibility that the University would make this transition.
Prior to the shift, ASU started to compile school equipment for students who would need access to laptops or computers if they do not have immediate access to those items at home, while also ensuring professors would be able to teach from home in the event all courses would need to be done online, according to University officials.
Professors were offered training for programs like Zoom over spring break to prepare them for this event, according to an email obtained by The State Press.
The University aims to ensure students' academic experience will remain as similar as possible over this period.
“If you were consuming the University in all the ways you are now, then doing that remotely, what would that require of the organization to determine that you have the same level of support that you do now in an alternative environment,” a University official said.
Ensuring the University and its students have the capability to make that transition has been the main goal in recent planning around COVID-19, a University official said.
Since the first Arizona case was confirmed, ASU has been prioritizing ensuring personal and communal well-being through cleaning and education, and guaranteeing the academic health of the University, such as ensuring students can continue their education, soon-to-be graduates can remain on track and that all resources for learning in the physical environment are transitioned to an online format.
In this transition all personnel deemed “essential” will remain on-campus.
“There wouldn't be a circumstance where the institution would be definitively closed,” a University official said. “We have operations here that would need to be sustained for any number of reasons.”
Updates on the situation will be posted on the ASU website home page and shared on social media and in emails to students, a University official said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronavirus is spread through droplets from coughs or sneezes, which can then be transmitted to another individual through contact with their nose, mouth or eyes.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, similar to the common flu, but complications with the virus can lead to “secondary bacterial pneumonia, respiratory failure and death” according to the Arizona Department of Health Services website.
A vaccine has not yet been developed for the virus. The best way to prevent getting the virus is to wash your hands frequently and avoid close contact with people who are visually sick, according to the CDC. If the coronavirus is known to be spreading in your community, the CDC said to “put distance between yourself and other people”.
Other Universities closing/ASU continuity plans
Other universities across the country have suspended in-person classes or canceled them altogether due to growing concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
Many universities that have canceled in-person classes have yet to report cases on their campuses or among faculty, but have still closed as a preventative measure.
The University has over 100 plans for continuity of operations designed to ensure that ASU can proceed in the case of an emergency or event that causes disruption to school functions, a University official said. Different University departments are asked on a regular basis to define what their critical functions are to keep important activities, like research, ongoing. These plans exist to ensure that students’ academic progress is not halted.
Universities that have suspended in-person courses due to concerns over the virus include Barnard College and Columbia University, Vanderbilt University, Harvard University, the University of Southern California, Duke University and Ohio State University.
Many of the universities that have either closed or announced preparations to do so have not reported cases of the virus on campus. However, they have taken measures as a proactive response to the spread of the virus throughout the country.
Wyatt Myskow is the project manager at The State Press, where he oversees enterprise stories for the publication. He also works at The Arizona Republic, where he covers the cities of Peoria and Surprise.