Active COVID-19 infections still on the rise within ASU community

Cumulative cases of the virus have increased by almost 500 in two weeks, along with 442 active COVID-19 cases reported Thursday

Over the past two weeks, cumulative cases of positive student and employee infections of the coronavirus have increased by almost 500 in the ASU community. Cases of the virus around the state and the country are also increasing, breaking records set just a few months ago. 

Active COVID-19 cases increased by 154 since Monday's update to a total of 442 within the ASU community, according to an update from the University Thursday night. 

Since its last update, active cases among students increased by 153 to 405, and active cases among employees increased by one to a total of 37. 

There are 296 active cases among students off campus in the metropolitan Phoenix area, and 95 students are in isolation on the Tempe campus. A total of 14 active student cases are on the Downtown Phoenix, West or Polytechnic campuses. 

There have been 2,623 cumulative cases within the ASU community since Aug. 1. Students make up 2,533 of those cumulative cases, and employees make up 90. Cumulative cases increased by 115 since Monday when the University reported there had been 2,508 cumulative cases.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported Thursday there had been 1,399 new infections and 12 additional deaths, bringing the state totals to 266,562 cases and 6,240 deaths. 

Joshua LaBaer, executive director at ASU's Biodesign Institute, said at a briefing Wednesday infections are still increasing as they did in June but at a slower rate. LaBaer said a combination of pandemic fatigue, more small indoor gatherings and open bars and restaurants, among other things, are causing numbers in Arizona to rise again. 

LaBaer equated pandemic fatigue and other contributing factors to the rise in cases to smoking: "We've known for a long time scientifically, that smoking is bad for you, that it causes all kinds of diseases, that it leads to death. There's a population of people who hear that medical advice and refrain from smoking. And then there's another population of people who, despite whatever the best scientific evidence is, will still smoke."

LaBaer continued the smoking metaphor to help explain the spread of the virus, even in small and outdoor spaces. He said if you can smell smoke in a place, it is most likely that their breath particles are also in the air and you could be breathing them in, putting yourself at risk.

University officials have said infections are not occurring in the classroom, but nonetheless, cases are still rising within the ASU community. The doubling rate of infection is around two and a half weeks, LaBaer said, meaning daily cases roughly double in that amount of time. 

The University has collected approximately 118,971 tests from students and employees since Aug. 1. According to the update, it has tested 76% of on-campus students and 38% of off-campus students. 

The University does not specify in updates if there have been any hospitalizations or deaths within the ASU community. 

The ASU community's percent positivity rate is roughly 2.2%, 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 in a particular area is effective.

At the Wednesday briefing, University spokesperson Jay Thorne encouraged media participants to remind the public that ASU and the ADHS are still offering free testing at a number of locations. Testing through the University is free for students and employees and is recommended before returning home for winter break. 

With holidays approaching, LaBaer said gatherings may not be possible for most unless serious mitigation factors are followed by those who plan on attending. 


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

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