President Crow confident in University protocol to reopen

With eight days until in-person classes begin, Crow and ASU leadership spoke with The State Press Wednesday morning about the fall semester

Increased personal accountability is a key part of ASU's plan to ensure students can return in-person this semester, ASU President Michael Crow and his executive team said in a meeting with The State Press Wednesday.

Crow reassured the school community that ASU is taking a number of steps to prepare for students being on-campus. Crow maintained that students wishing to return to campus are "making a deal" that they won't come to campus if they are experiencing any number of possible COVID-19 symptoms

In addition to explaining several policies already in place, the team said they are working to put together a dashboard for data they already report to the state's Department of Health Services and charts produced by ASU’s COVID-19 modeling team.

Are you confident it’s safe to open on Aug. 20?

Crow said it is never 100% safe to be on a college campus and this semester in particular brings a new set of challenges. With strict compliance to rules and protocol however, Crow said he believes the University can manage to continue operating in-person. 

College campuses are complicated places, Crow said, expressing confidence in his team’s development of "policies and procedures that can at least give us the best method possible of any institution for the management of our continued operations," he said.  

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

Crow said students in leadership positions, as well as those at the University, are responsible for communicating the responsibility of each person to comply with safety precautions for the rest of the school community. 

"If everyone follows the guidelines in our Community of Care plan, wears a mask, social distances, (completes the) health check, testing if you're showing symptoms, we're not going to have any problems," Crow said. 

Major research universities have made decisions in recent weeks to transition classes to an online format, how can you be sure that our plan is safer or better for our community? 

Crow said it was unfair to compare schools because of different state and city circumstances and other varied protocols at other institutions.

"They're basically declaring that they don’t believe that their undergraduate programs are essential," Crow said about other universities that have changed course delivery to solely online, adding that ASU believes undergraduate programs are essential. 

Crow said the positivity rate of the virus among the ASU community was at roughly 1%, far lower than the threshold put forward by Gov. Doug Ducey for K-12 schools to meet in order to reopen on time. 

Schools like Harvard University had a plan to test students at least once a week, an approach that will not be implemented at ASU. Health experts at these schools and other outside researchers have repeatedly said continued testing must be part of a successful reopening and the schools determined they would not be able to do so.

Interim Executive Vice President of ASU's Knowledge Enterprise, Neal Woodbury, present at the Zoom meeting with Crow, said weekly testing requirements on a campus of ASU's size would be difficult, "requiring essentially a police state" to enforce it, he said. 

Instead, the University will mandate that students who report symptoms on the mandatory health screening on ASU's app must get tested and are not allowed in class. Students who fail to submit their daily health check will be locked out of their MyASU account until the health check is submitted, Crow said.

What are some of the data reporting practices the University will follow?

While the University is steady in their decision to not report specifics about positive coronavirus test results on-campus, they will put together a dashboard students and community members can go to, directing them to data by zip code and other modeling they may need to stay informed. 

"We have decided that the best way for us to communicate positivity of our community is where they live," Crow said, adding that knowing the specific number of cases won't help students outside of campus, where they may interact with members from outside the community.

READ MORE: University says publishing campus-wide COVID-19 data is not ‘useful information’

The dashboard is still in the development stage. 

The University's team said not releasing specific data about positives was still the plan, citing student privacy. Testing will continue and will show up in the state's data and on the developing dashboard. 

"We really have to worry about the students and the student’s welfare," Woodbury said. "And in some sense, the student's welfare is less tied to being sick with the virus and is more tied to what the virus is going to do to affect your lives."

Crow reemphasized that testing is available for students and faculty free of charge and is recommended to them once they begin showing possible symptoms, hopefully caught by the mandatory health checks. 

"The virus isn't going away, but we can manage it," Crow said. 

Strict compliance with daily health checks, as well as air filtration systems and "hospital grade sanitization" are some components behind Crow's confidence in the University's start date.

What would it take to move classes online again?

"We go back if Rt (the rate of infection) starts to accelerate," Crow said. 

If the spread of the virus goes back to numbers similar to those in June and early July in Arizona, a change in course delivery could be possible. The state is currently seeing a steady decline in new cases.


Will the University send someone home for not following the rules?

"You don't wear a mask, you have to come through ASU Sync," Crow said. 

Joanne Vogel, the vice president of student services, said the plan in place assumes the best of students but disciplinary action would be used if necessary. 

"I really believe that we have students who care enough that they are going to do the right thing," Vogel said. "There might be some outliers that decide to test us, and we're ready for them."

Are students allowed to be on campus for welcome week events or otherwise without a negative test?

"Proof of a negative test is not required to be on-campus, unless a student has tested positive recently," said Katie Paquet, a University spokesperson. 

The University announced students living on-campus would be required to provide a negative test result 48 hours before move-in time. Students and community assistants working in residence halls have been confused about when tests should be conducted and why others in the classroom would not need to report a negative test. 

Welcome week will host both in-person and virtual events this week before Tempe move-in begins on Aug. 15.

What is the procedure for students who test positive, recover and then wish to return to the classroom?

Vogel said students who test positive for the coronavirus will have two strategies to follow to determine if they can return to in-person classes. 

If students display symptoms, they must go 10 days without symptoms, go 24 hours without a fever without the use of medicine and have displayed improved symptoms before they can return to campus. If they never displayed symptoms, students may return to campus after they have stayed isolated for 10 days. 

Woodbury noted that the University is following CDC guidelines for these procedures and will adjust them if the guidelines change.

Who is responsible for enforcing Community of Care compliance?

Crow said that University staff is "moving toward the mode of compliance." Compliance will be enforced by the daily health check. Students who do not complete it will be logged out of their MyASU accounts. Employees who do not complete it will not be able to come to work online or in person.

If students see their classmates not following the guidelines put forth, they should inform their instructors who can then take care of it. Students who do not follow the rules, such as wearing a mask in the classroom, will be asked to attend remotely from home. Repeat offenders could potentially be subject to disciplinary action, Vogel said.


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

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