Active COVID-19 cases decline in ASU community while state sees spike

The University is working on a 'more careful testing protocol' for students moving back into on-campus housing in the spring after fall protocol 'wasn't good enough'

Active COVID-19 cases decreased by 13 within the ASU community, according to an update from the University Thursday night. 

Since Monday's update, active cases among students decreased by 13 to a total of 80, and active cases among employees remained at 11. The total number of active cases decreased to 91.

There are 61 active cases among students off campus in the metropolitan Phoenix area, and 19 students are in isolation on the Tempe campus. No active student cases are on the Downtown Phoenix, West or Polytechnic campuses.  

The University's four deans of students announced in an email Thursday afternoon that "prior to the start of classes in January, students in on-campus housing will be required to take a COVID-19 test through" the Biodesign Institute. The email said more details will be sent to students living on campus in the coming weeks.

Neal Woodbury, the interim executive vice president of ASU's Knowledge Enterprise, said in an interview with The State Press Monday that the more lax testing requirements to move-in during the fall may have caused the spike in cases at the beginning of the semester.

In the fall, students were allowed to submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test a few weeks before move-in, Woodbury said. "That wasn't good enough," he said, and the University "will try and devise a much more careful testing protocol." 

"We have to get people tested at a shorter interval," when students return to campus for the spring semester, Woodbury said. 

There have been 2,077 cumulative cases within the ASU community since Aug. 1 — when many students began moving in. Students comprise 2,030 of those cumulative cases, and employees make up 47. Cumulative cases increased by 22 since Monday when the University reported there had been 2,055 cumulative cases.

ASU will not be updating its policy on contact tracing after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a change to how it defines a close contact. The CDC now defines close contacts as anyone who has spent at least 15 minutes with someone with an active infection over a 24-hour period.

The University said on its COVID-19 FAQ page this "does not change ASU's policy, as the university had been following county guidance (10 minutes) and asking people about those they’d been around cumulatively."

The University has collected approximately 94,931 tests from students and employees since Aug. 1. According to the update, it has tested 71% of on-campus students and 31% of off-campus students.

The ASU community's percent positivity rate is roughly 2.18%, using the cumulative number of positive results as the numerator and the total number of tests collected as the denominator. The percent positivity rate represents the level of transmission of the virus and if the testing is effective.  

COVID-19 cases are once again surging across the country — and in Arizona. The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 994 new cases and five new deaths Thursday.

Internal tracking of ADHS zip code data of the zip codes with ASU campuses — 85281, 85004, 85306 and 85212 along with the 85282 zip code in Tempe — done by The State Press shows that cumulative cases have increased by 100 in the five areas since Monday. 

According to the update, 2,247 students and 162 employees have been cleared to return to campus. The University does not require those who test positive to then test negative before returning to in-person activities on campus or in the community.  

The University does not specify if there have been any hospitalizations or deaths of ASU students or faculty in its report. 


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

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