Students account for 452 of ASU's reported COVID-19 cases

Cases of the coronavirus in the ASU community have increased by 319, more than 100 cases per day since Tuesday

There are 452 known student positive coronavirus cases and 28 employee positives within the ASU community, an increase of 319 from Tuesday, University President Michael Crow announced in a late night online update Friday that was slow to load and crashed for some.

The number reflects positives from 37,149 school community members tested both on and off campus – some with ASU's saliva-based testing offered at several locations free of charge for students and employees. 

The student positivity rate is 0.6% within the "total campus immersion student body of 74,500," the update said. Out of 12,400 total faculty and staff, there is a 0.2% positivity rate, the update added.

According to the update, more than half of the positives come from off-campus students and the Tempe campus has 205 students in isolation. 

The University is reporting more than double the amount of positives compared to the data released earlier this week. According to tracking done by The State Press, zip codes around the Tempe area have only slightly increased. 

Friday night, many bars on Mill Avenue in Tempe reopened after Maricopa county reached criteria to do so, something public health experts have warned could lead to more cases of the coronavirus.

The University is still withholding a case breakdown by campus, citing a need to protect student privacy, but is now committed to providing students with regular updates about known positives within the community. Frequency of updates is expected to be weekly.

The University is working with the Arizona Department of Health Services to produce data showing the virus trends within the zip codes ASU's campuses are located in, the announcement said.

"As of today, the communities in which our campuses are located are following a downward trend in positive case counts, similar to that of the state," the update said. 

Despite the case number, the update said the campus will remain open. Classes will still meet in-person.

"It is our expectation that COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon and that we must find a way to operate the university in a way that accounts for the ongoing presence of the virus," the update said, listing testing, daily health checks and business partnerships as how the University will find ways to continue to operate in person. 

Over 59,000 students and 12,000 employees have completed the daily health check each day this week — which became a requirement on Aug. 24 — the update said. Between 300 and 500 people were not cleared each day, the update showed in a graph.

The University has repeatedly said it will not release more specific data because it would violate health care and educational privacy laws – specifically the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. 

The two however, do not prevent the University from releasing numbers, only revealing the identity of a positive case without permission. No university releasing data dashboards daily or identifying cases in specific residence halls have faced repercussions from the Department of Education for violating FERPA, according to reporting from The Arizona Republic.

The City of Tempe is using a similar data collecting process to assess where testing should be done. In four zip codes where the Tempe campus and surrounding areas are located – 85281, 85282, 85283 and 85284 – there are 4,995 cases, according to the city's data tracker. 

The state of Arizona has over 200,000 confirmed cases and close to 5,000 deaths across all 15 counties, increasing by 519 cases and 49 deaths Friday, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services

The update comes a day after school leaders at UA said they were able to prevent outbreaks on their campus by testing wastewater near a residence hall. 

UA leaders, who have been taking samples of wastewater since March, said the samples provide a monitoring system of potential asymptomatic cases and found two positives in a residence hall of over 300 students. 

Wyatt Myskow contributed to the reporting of this article.


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

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