University confirms 161 COVID-19 cases in ASU community

Since Aug. 1, the University has conducted over 32,000 COVID-19 tests

There are 161 known positive cases of the coronavirus currently within the ASU community, according to a statement made by University President Michael Crow Tuesday.

In the statement, Crow said the University had "collected test results from 32,729 students and employees" since Aug. 1. Positive cases were reportedly found on and off campus, the statement said. 

The statement did not break down how many students or employees tested positive or how many of the positives were confirmed since the University reopened on Aug. 20.

A University spokesperson would not elaborate on a positive case breakdown by campus, how many students had been asked to isolate or how many students had been alerted of close contact as part of the school's contact tracing plan. 

A transcript from an assembly of faculty Tuesday obtained by The State Press detailed Crow's plan to accelerate random testing of up to 25% of the school population per week to "have a very good picture of what's going on," he said. 

A University spokesperson clarified that testing would require testing at least 7% of the school's asymptomatic population but will fluctuate from week to week, possibly above the 25% mark mentioned by Crow, depending on the number of campus visitors.

"The objective is for the institution to function in this particular moment in time as we have been over the last many months," Crow said in his statement. "We're moving forward and we're attempting to be responsive to every individual and we're attempting to empower every individual along the way."

The University is also making changes to living arrangements for students in "facilities where we don't think they're conducive to limiting spread," Crow said according to the transcript. A University spokesperson did not specify which living arrangements Crow was referring to.

The creation of a dashboard displaying coronavirus data by zip code is in progress. However, the measure may not paint an accurate picture; students going to and from campus may not live in the areas tracked by the dashboard. In his statement, Crow said he is committing to regular updates about the school's management of the virus, like the one released Tuesday.

The decision to publish minimal data has drawn confusion and criticism from students and faculty. 

"We have faculty at the university – across several campuses and units – that study how data can be visualized and how those in the public make sense of such visualizations," said Alexander Halavais, an associate professor of critical data studies, in an email. "We should leverage these to serve not just our own community but the communities in which we are embedded."

Halavais said he does not believe the University is being secretive on purpose. However, with ASU being a research institution and "facing a crisis of credibility," it should be taking a leadership position in data collection and dissemination. 

On Tuesday, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported just 859 new coronavirus cases, continuing the state's steady decline in daily new positive cases since a peak in July. The state consistently saw over 3,000 daily new cases over a month-long stretch beginning in mid-June, data from The COVID Tracking Project shows. 

Compliance with the Community of Care requirements was reportedly "something like 98 or 99%," Crow said in the assembly of faculty. 

Students the University identifies either attending or hosting social gatherings on or off campus that violate public health protocols could face suspension, the statement said.

Students found to have violated the University's no visitor policy will also be subject to suspension and eviction from University Housing, the statement said.

READ MORE: Six 'student-related' party citations issued by Tempe PD over weekend

Crow said in the assembly of faculty, "that we're holding people accountable for their conduct and for their behavior and if they can't live within the Community of Care then they can't be part of our community," according to the transcript.

The statement also announced face coverings will be required "at all times in all ASU outdoor spaces," with the only exception being for eating.

Among other numbers shared in the assembly, Crow said "large numbers of students" were participating in class through Zoom, and foot traffic on campus seemed to be down. 

Crow also championed parts of the Community of Care plan in the assembly, such as mask requirements and the daily health check. He detailed the University's efforts to make all campus services remote or at least low-contact for all students in the dining halls, libraries and other study spaces around campus. 


Reach the reporters at pjhanse1@asu.edu and wmyskow@asu.edu and follow @piperjhansen and @wmyskow on Twitter. 

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