The University will be implementing stricter COVID-19 testing policies for students returning to live on-campus this spring semester.
All students living in University Housing this spring will need to take and submit a negative coronavirus PCR test — which is the type of saliva-based test ASU administers — between Jan. 2-10 "to be cleared to live in on-campus housing for the spring 2021 semester," according to the University Housing website.
Students can submit their COVID-19 test results through the ASU student health portal, according to a University spokesperson. Students who remain on campus over the winter break in University Housing "should plan to test at one of the on-campus sites between January 2 and January 4."
The only exception to the required testing is for students who tested positive for the coronavirus between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. This is due to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that say most people diagnosed with COVID-19 are no longer infectious after 10 days and shed less of the virus, making it less transmissible to others, University spokesperson Chris Fiscus said in an email.
Fiscus said the University will continue its required random testing protocol for faculty and staff.
University officials have said the more relaxed testing requirements for students moving into residence halls at the start of the fall semester likely contributed to the large spike in cases seen shortly after classes began. Students were allowed to submit tests that were "six and seven and eight days before they came back, and that's too long of a timeframe," said ASU President Michael Crow in an interview with The State Press Wednesday.
"The mistake that we made was we thought that the antigen tests were adequate to give a negative reading for a student living in a communal living situation, (but) the answer is no," Crow said. "The antigen test should be given only to people that are symptomatic to determine whether or not what they have in fact is COVID."
Because of that, students will need to submit PCR tests, Crow said. He added the University will be maintaining its free testing and random testing protocol in the spring semester for off-campus students.
The University randomly tested around 2-4% of students and employees per week this past semester, but Crow said "if the virus is even more profound out in the general social spread, then we'll probably intensify the random testing."
The University will also be expanding its testing capacity next semester, Crow said.
Emails to students regarding the spring testing protocols went out on Nov. 20, and the University will continue to share the message on social media and through messages leading up until the start of the next semester, Fiscus said.
According to the email sent to students living on campus, those remaining in a residence hall over spring break should be tested at an on-campus location and students returning from their homes should be tested at any public or student testing site in Arizona.
New students moving into a residence hall next semester will be allowed to have someone assist them with moving in. Students returning to a residence hall they lived in this semester will not be allowed to have guests assist them with moving back in, a spokesperson said.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to provide additional information about how students will report their COVID-19 tests upon returning and move-in protocols for students next semester.
Wyatt Myskow is the project manager at The State Press, where he oversees enterprise stories for the publication. He also works at The Arizona Republic, where he covers the cities of Peoria and Surprise.