COVID-19 and ASU: Here's what you need to know

The State Press compiled what we know about the Fall 2020 semester and the transition to in-person classes

Editor's Note: This story was updated Aug. 3 at 1 p.m. to include more information on in-person classes, testing, health and safety precautions, on-campus housing and shuttle services. This story will be updated as ASU continues to announce more plans for the fall semester. 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, ASU has outlined its tentative plans for the fall semester, including guidelines for health and safety and plans to restore some in-person classes and on-campus amenities. 

After seeing a rapid growth of coronavirus cases in June, the state’s case numbers have begun to flatten. Gov. Doug Ducey extended the original 30 day closure for bars, gyms, water parks, movie theaters and river tubing and will reevaluate every two weeks to determine if it is safe to reopen.

As of Tuesday, ASU is set to reopen on August 20. However, all three of Arizona's public universities have expressed concerns about reopening amid the state's skyrocketing coronavirus cases, and are ready to go fully online if needed. 

READ MORE: ASU, NAU & UA presidents: Universities ready to go online if needed

A University official said in an email that the University is "certainly concerned with the recent uptick in cases," and they will be watching the case numbers over the coming weeks.

"We are hoping that we can continue down the path we're currently on in terms of offering in-person classes, but as President Crow has noted before, we're continuing to monitor and we'll be ready to transition if needed," the official said. 

With the fall 2020 start date approaching quickly, The State Press compiled what we know about the switch to in-person classes after months of spring and summer Zoom lectures.

In a June 16 live webinar, ASU spokesperson Katie Paquet said the University's top priority is providing an immersive learning experience that adheres to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health guidelines through a blend of in-person courses, online courses and ASU Sync, the school's Zoom program.

In-person and online classes

Classes will be delivered in three formats: in-person, ASU Sync and iCourses. Most classes will be offered through a combination of in-person and sync courses where students can attend class in-person one day, then Zoom into a lecture the next day the class meets.

The logistics of class, including attending virtually or attending in-person, will be on a class-by-class basis. For example, if a class meets on Tuesday and Thursday, half the class will attend in-person one day, while the other half attends through Zoom. The groups would then switch for the next class.

Instructions for class setup will be relayed to students by their individual professors prior to the start of the semester.

Students who wish to attend a course solely through Zoom, due to health concerns or travel restrictions, will be able to work with their professors to do so. Students can move from sync classes to in-person classes when they are able to do so. 

The University is planning to adjust class sizes to adhere to social distancing guidelines while offering alternatives to most in-person courses through ASU Sync, but not all.

According to a University official, ASU is offering 14,000 classes this fall, a majority of them offered through both ASU Sync and in-person modalities. 

In an effort to reduce classroom density, “all courses with an enrollment of 100 or more students have either been moved to remote delivery or will have the enrollment reduced by adding additional sections,” a University official said. Only a few hundred classes, like science labs and performance classes, will not be available to take remotely. 

READ MORE: MyASU now displays what classes are offered in-person and through ASU Sync

"We have technology arriving by the truckloads to update and improve more than 800 classrooms to prepare them for ASU Sync – our synchronous, technology-enhanced and fully interactive remote learning using live lectures via Zoom," a University official said in an email.

Of those 800 classes, 375 will have virtual learning equipment permanently installed. The others will use portable set-ups. Millions of dollars have been spent over the summer in order to prepare the University, the official said. 

Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Frederick Corey said one driving factor in avoiding transitioning all classes to online formats for the fall was "to maintain the human interaction that occurs between the faculty and the students, as well as student to student."

Corey said out-of-state students should come back to campus and participate in "the educational experience to the fullest extent possible."

Tutoring centers and libraries will be open in-person and virtually. Masks will be required for student and faculty visitors. A sun card is required to gain access to libraries on all four campuses where study rooms have minimized capacity, furniture rearranged for distancing, as well as signage posted and a frequent cleaning protocol.

Tutoring centers and libraries will be open in-person and virtually. Masks will be required for student and faculty visitors. A sun card is required to gain access to libraries on all four campuses where study rooms have minimized capacity, furniture rearranged for distancing, as well as signage posted and a frequent cleaning protocol.

Vice Provost for Academic Innovation and Student Achievement Sukhwant Jhaj said deans and faculty are working together to create certain "time zone specific" core classes for international students who do not return to campus.

Health and safety precautions 

ASU will distribute "Community of Care Kits" to resident students on move-in day and will make them available to other students at the bookstore free of charge. Kits include two face coverings, hand sanitizer, wipes and a thermometer. Katie Paquet, a University spokesperson, said the goal is to have students pick up fresh kits at ASU bookstore locations whenever they run out of supplies. Students can also request a clear mask or face shield from a faculty member but supplies will be limited.

The University has 150,000 kits, which cost around $9 each to produce, a University official said. They said the University has also spent $55,000 in advertisements throughout Arizona as part of their campaign to promote the importance of wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and more.

ASU has also worked with 27 local apartment complexes and businesses to expand the use of the Community of Care signage throughout the community, a University official said. The cost of the signage used in the effort is $3,167.44.

“It is important that we work with apartment complexes that house large numbers of our students and local businesses patronized by our students to help spread awareness about the best ways to fight COVID-19 once our students leave campus,” the official said.

Joanne Vogel, vice president of Student Services, said students who do not follow the face-covering mandate can be subject to penalty for violating the Student Code of Conduct

A University official said that by ignoring the guidelines of wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing jeopardizes both an individual's health and the health of others. Disciplinary action will be used if necessary.

"If a student shows up to class without a face covering, we will assume that is unintentional and try to have masks available for them," a University official said in an email. "If we do not, they can go outside and use ASU Sync to Zoom to get into their class. Repeat offenders may be subject to discipline through the Student Code of Conduct."

Returning students must complete a virtual Community of Care training over summer before returning that will outline health and safety expectations for students as they reintegrate to campus life. 

The training was made available on July 20 and includes topics like social distancing, face coverings, advice on managing COVID-19 with peers and setting boundaries with others that support public health.

The training will take students between 15-20 minutes to complete and includes additional resources. All returning immersion students must complete the training and those living on campus must complete it before receiving a key to their room, the official said. 

Cleaning and testing around campus

Students living in University Housing this fall must submit their COVID-19 PCR testing results 48 hours before moving-in, an announcement from Provost Mark Searle on Tuesday said.

READ MORE: On-campus residents required to be cleared for COVID-19 before moving in 

Wait times for COVID-19 test results in Arizona are between 10 and 12 days and even longer in some other states. University officials said students awaiting results can drop off belongings at their residential hall but “will not be able to begin living there until a negative test result is provided.”

Students from states where test results are given over the phone will need to call the testing facility and ask for a copy of the results, a University spokesperson said. In some places where testing is only offered to symptomatic people, students are advised to request home testing kits or travel to Arizona and get a test through the University with quicker turnaround.

The sync class option will be available to any student who experiences delays that roll over to the beginning of the semester.

The University offers free saliva-based COVID-19 testing on all campuses through health services. 

READ MORE: ADHS partners with ASU to provide saliva-based COVID-19 testing

Students and employees are expected to monitor their health and take precautions, including not coming to campus if their temperature is above 100.4 degrees. The announcement from Searle said students must complete the self-screening every day using a new feature on the ASU app. More details are expected Aug. 7 when the feature launches.

Students who test positive for COVID-19 are expected to self-isolate and attend courses through Zoom only. The University does not have a mandated space for students who live on campus to isolate in the event that they test positive.

But the University is leaving an undisclosed amount of rooms vacant in order to allow students to isolate if necessary. Isolating students will still have access to a food delivery system and health care through ASU Health Services and ASU telehealth services.

President Michael Crow has maintained that the virus is not going away and we need to learn how to safely live with it, meaning campus will not shut down in response to just one confirmed case. 

READ MORE: Biodesign Institute develops new COVID-19 saliva test

ASU, in collaboration with Maricopa County, is working to implement a contract tracing system that will notify students if they may have been exposed to a peer with COVID-19. Interviews and card swipe logs will be used to track students who may have been exposed. 

The identity of those who test positive will be confidential and the University will not be publishing a dashboard with the number of confirmed cases among students, faculty and staff. Those seeking case numbers for University spaces should look to case numbers of zip codes tracked by the Arizona Department of Health Services. The University said it will conduct extensive interviews with individuals who have tested positive to identify any potential spread.

Dean of Students Tempe Cassandra Aska said if a student feels ill they can directly contact the Dean's office for support from a team member and to learn about what they should do next.

"We will even call the student daily while they are going through their isolation or quarantine period," Aska said. "If they are needing to think about food we will help them figure that out, and then if they need to get in contact with health services or connect with their faculty, we will help facilitate that."

A University official added that ASU will work with students who become ill to “address any medical, housing, food or academic needs and concerns.”

Disinfectant wipes will be available in all classrooms. Faculty and students are "encouraged" to use those wipes to clean personal and shared spaces, like desks and chairs, between classes. 

All University buildings will receive a thorough medical-grade cleaning and fogging system cleanse prior to the fall semester and before July 31. High-contact surfaces, like door handles and faucets, will be cleaned twice daily.

ASU has been working with Olympus, the University's custodial service vendor, to finalize fall semester cleaning plans to ensure "additional cleaning services" are completed "to support a safe environment for the ASU community," a University official said. 

"Olympus will ensure that enough custodial staff is available to perform the cleaning services requested," the official said. 

Food and business services on campus

"All of our student services will be available to you either in-person or in a digital environment," Paquet said. 

Which specific student services will be delegated to an online or in-person format, Paquet did not say, but Crow and the University have repeatedly said all services ASU provides will be available online.

Dining halls in ASU dormitories will continue to be takeout-only and will be updated with new measures — such as sneeze guards, contactless payment options and extended hours — to ensure safety.

Other restaurants on campus and POD markets will be open as takeout-only, and outdoor seating will be expanded.

Restaurants and the dining halls will have the same options as they usually would available for take-out, a University official said.

On-campus living

Dormitory move-ins will be done by appointment and students will continue to be able to live with roommates, Aska said. Students will sign up for a time to move-in on a first-come, first-serve basis and are encouraged to limit the amount of accompanying support. 

Early move-in began on Aug. 1 and students who live within Maricopa county can begin moving into University housing from Aug. 5-9, the Arizona Republic reported.

Students will not be able to have guests over that do not live in the same dormitory.

Based on local health conditions “common areas may be subject to restrictions,” the ASU Novel Coronavirus FAQ Page said.

ASU will not allow gatherings on-campus “that are incompatible with health guidance during the fall semester,” a University official said.

The official said if the University is made aware of unsafe, off-campus gatherings “purposefully designed to disregard public health protocols, the university will take action,” using Section F-17 of the Student Code of Conduct. Which they said “refers to off-campus conduct that a reasonable person would believe may present a risk or danger to the health, safety or security of the board or university community or to the safety or security of the board or university property.”

“While this will be used now for COVID-19 related reasons, this has been in place for a long time and is used to address other off-campus activities that pose a threat to the university community,” the official said. Students who wish to cancel their housing for the fall semester should do so as soon as possible, Vogel said. 

She said cancellations will result in fees for students. The longer students wait to cancel, the more the fee will be. The fee to cancel after July 1 is $500.

Aska said students can also request an individual dormitory room if they do not feel comfortable living with a roommate, but they will have to pay the more expensive private room rate. 

READ MORE: As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, students worry about on-campus classes

Students can have their fall housing payment deferred until the spring semester, Vogel added.

Prior to students moving-in, community spaces will receive thorough disinfecting of hard surfaces, vacuuming and hot water extraction on carpets, air vents will be vacuumed and treated with disinfectants, too, a University official said. 

Restrooms, showers, door knobs, community areas, kitchens and other shared spaces will receive "special attention" for cleaning prior to move-in, the official said. 

A University official said that where possible, lounges and kitchens within University housing “will be locked and available for use by appointment only.” More details should be available later in August prior to move-in. 

Shuttle services

Shuttles will continue running at usual times, with face coverings required to ride, drivers sanitizing their vehicles after every trip and blocked seats to accommodate for social distancing.

Vogel said the University will be watching the demand of shuttle services once the semester begins and will potentially add more shuttles if needed.

Regular shuttle hours will resume Aug. 10 for the semester with 25 students allowed on each route, according to the ASU Novel Coronavirus FAQ page. Only widow seats will be available, plexiglass will surround the driver and a hand-sanitizing dispenser will be located near the door. After each trip, the shuttle will be disinfected by shuttle staff.

Sun Devil Fitness Centers

Fitness facilities will reopen for fall in accordance with CDC guidelines, including sanitization and distancing workout equipment, with at-home workout routines and health and wellness education services also offered virtually. Off-campus students will still have fitness fees included in their tuition.

ASU events

ASU has not yet made its decision on hosting large gatherings or sporting events in the fall, and has said it will continue to monitor the situation. The decision will rely on public health circumstances at that time, the University website says. 

READ MORE: Pac-12 announces conference-only 2020 fall sports schedule

Vogel said in an ASU webinar on June 29 that intramural sports leagues will likely be postponed due to the current rise in positive cases of the coronavirus in Arizona.

Fall break

ASU's FAQ page says that the two-day fall break from Oct. 12-13 has been canceled to reduce travel risk.

Other than fall break, Corey confirmed that the calendar for the upcoming semester has not changed. Students will be allowed return to campus after Thanksgiving break.


Reach the reporters at stellefs@asu.edu, pjhanse1@asu.edu and wmyskow@asu.edu and follow @samtellefson, @piperjhansen and @WMyskow on Twitter. 

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