As state COVID-19 infections hit marks not seen since July, ASU sees decline

University reports active coronavirus infections decrease among ASU community with cumulative cases nearing 3,000

Active COVID-19 cases decreased by 102 since Monday's update to a total of 347 within the ASU community, according to an update from the University Thursday. 

Since its last update, the University reported active cases among students decreased by 107 to 289, and active cases among employees increased by five to 58. 

There are 227 active cases among students off campus in the metropolitan Phoenix area, and 52 students are isolating on the Tempe campus. A total of 10 active student cases are on Downtown Phoenix, West or Polytechnic campuses. 

There have been 2,885 cumulative cases within the ASU community since Aug. 1. Students make up 2,758 of those cumulative cases, and employees make up 127. Cumulative cases increased by 101 since Monday when the University reported there were 2,784 cumulative cases.

In a Thursday briefing with health experts from Johns Hopkins University, several discussed recommendations for reversing troubling COVID-19 trends in the U.S., which included continued mask wearing and social distancing, closing high-risk activities and venues, bolstering personal protective equipment supply chains as well as rolling out a vaccine. 

"The epidemic is uncontrolled currently in the U.S.; rates have never been this high," Gypsyamber D’Souza, an epidemiology professor at Johns Hopkins University, said in the briefing. "And it is now not just in a few areas, but throughout the country." 

She added there is now exponential case growth in many states, "and that's translating into the beginnings of hospital systems being overwhelmed."

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported Thursday there had been 4,123 new infections and 19 additional deaths, bringing the state totals to 287,225 cases and 6,384 deaths. According to data from the COVID Tracking Project, Thursday's infections are the most new infections in Arizona reported in one day since July. 

Internal tracking done by The State Press of ADHS ZIP code data of ZIP codes with ASU campuses, along with an additional Tempe ZIP code — 85281, 85004, 85306, 85212 and 85282 —  shows cumulative cases have increased by 296 since Monday. 

The largest growth in cases since Monday occurred in the two Tempe ZIP codes, with 96 new cases reported in 85281 and 74 new cases in 85282. 

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 slightly slower rate. 

"Peak implies that it's going to turn around and stop at that point," LaBaer said. "There's nothing to indicate anything is slowing down when the numbers are continuing to rise."

The state is in the middle of another surge, LaBaer said, noting the virus is now the third leading cause of death in the country behind heart disease and cancer. 

LaBaer said 11% of Maricopa County residents have now contracted the coronavirus. He said people who have had the virus already would likely not get it again, which should slow the spread, but too many people are still susceptible and at risk.

The University has collected approximately 129,374 tests from students and employees since Aug. 1. According to the update, ASU has tested 79% of on-campus students and 40% of off-campus students. 

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. 

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

READ MORE: ASU officials, health experts promote testing, urge caution for winter break

On Wednesday, in his first press conference in roughly three weeks, Gov. Doug Ducey announced testing would be available at airports for travelers and reminded Arizonans of safety measures already in place. 

Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, wrote Ducey's announcements came too late and will do too little. 

"In my opinion, the die is cast, and we are headed for an early or mid-December hospital capacity crisis," he wrote

Humble wrote winter cases will likely be worse than summer cases because out-of-state health care workers would not be available to take care of the state's seasonal older population. LaBaer agreed. 

"Sadly, the coming hospital capacity crisis and the resulting loss of life was likely avoidable with targeted and timely evidence-based interventions a few weeks ago," Humble wrote. "Get ready folks."

Senior Reporter 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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