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What you need to know about ASU's Fall 2021 semester

The State Press compiled a guide answering students' questions on where face masks are required, what happens if you test positive for COVID-19 and more


Students walking on Palm Walk on Wednesday, Aug. 11, in Tempe.

With the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the University is moving forward with opening the Fall 2021 semester under pre-pandemic operations. ASU is preparing for over 75,000 students to return to campus for in-person classes, activities and living for the fall semester, which starts Thursday. 

Yet, the Delta variant, a more contagious strain of the virus that now accounts for 65% of all cases in Arizona, has spurred concerns about COVID-19 once again.

"COVID-19 is not going away. It is here to stay and we all have to figure out how to live with the presence of the virus, and that is something we have been facing and managing since January 2020," an ASU spokesperson said in an email statement. 

In addition to encouraging vaccinations, testing and masking, ASU is watching the COVID-19 situation in Arizona "closely" and is "prepared to pivot as necessary," the spokesperson said.

As the first day of classes quickly approaches, The State Press has assembled a guide to help students navigate the return to campus.

Masks, COVID-19 vaccines

Face coverings will be required in certain classrooms, teaching and research labs, and other indoor settings where social distancing may not be possible, the University announced last week. These other locations include ASU clinical programs and centers that serve the general public, meeting rooms, workshops and design or production studios.

Building spaces exempt from the policy include Sun Devil Fitness Complexes, Student Unions, meeting rooms not used for classes that have enough space for distancing and residential halls.

Students who do not comply with ASU's mask policy may be subject to disciplinary action, according to a University FAQ page. Visitors who do not comply may be asked to leave the building.

The University's decision to require masks in some buildings does not perfectly align with Gov. Doug Ducey's executive order that says students "cannot be mandated to be tested or wear masks in order to participate in learning." But the legislation outlawed universities from having different face covering policies for unvaccinated students versus vaccinated students.

"The Arizona Board of Regents, a public university or a community college may not require that a student obtain a COVID-19 vaccination or show proof of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination or place any conditions on attendance or participation in classes or academic activities, including mandatory testing or face covering usage, if the person chooses not to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination or disclose whether the person has been vaccinated against COVID-19," the law said.

ASU's policy applies to everyone on campus, it says, and is therefore not in conflict with the executive order or law. 

READ MORE: Masks now required to be worn in certain ASU buildings

Given the ban, the University is encouraging all students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated. Vaccines are available to students and employees for free by signing up for an appointment through their respective Health Portals.

About 60% to 65% of incoming students who responded to an orientation survey have received the vaccine, a second University spokesperson said in an email. ASU does not have student vaccination rates across the general student population as of Monday and is still collecting data for the rates.

As of Aug. 4, around 77% of ASU staff and about 83% of ASU faculty have provided evidence of complete vaccination, the second spokesperson said. 

Students can upload their vaccine records through their Health Portal, and employees can upload their vaccination records through Employee Health.

Class delivery

Most classes will be delivered in person and on campus. Select classes will also be available as iCourses and through ASU Sync, the hybrid learning model that allows students to attend class remotely or in person.

About 400 class sections will be delivered through ASU Sync in Fall 2021. Most of the over 14,000 sections that were delivered in person last fall utilized the modality as well.

All classes should be taught in the mode of instruction listed in the course schedule at the indicated times. Changes to how a class is being taught, in-person or virtually, require provost approval.

Students who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and wish to petition to attend class remotely should contact the Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services office to register for accommodations, according to the University’s Novel Coronavirus FAQ page. Petitions will require medical documentation from the student. 

What happens if you test positive for COVID-19

If a student tests positive for COVID-19, they are expected to isolate and will not be penalized for attendance, but how students get caught up and if they can attend class remotely is between them and their instructor.

Instructors will be "expected to make reasonable accommodations" for those who miss class because of illness, self-isolation or quarantine, a spokesperson said.

Students are responsible for completing make-up work and contacting their instructors about accommodations.

Although students should have documentation from a medical provider saying they require accommodation, they are "not required to report the specific reason for their illness."

"In some cases, you will be able to attend classes remotely. In some cases, you will have access to a recording of class. Some classes do not lend themselves to remote attendance, and those courses may provide alternative accommodations including makeup work," the FAQ page says. 

For students living on campus, the University will find a place where students can isolate, and they will be provided with food delivery and check-ins depending on student need. Off-campus students will also be contacted to see if they need assistance from the University.

Students can come out of isolation 10 days after symptoms first appeared and when they go 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication, along with displaying improved conditions. If the student never displayed symptoms, they can come out of isolation 10 days after they initially tested positive.

Students who were exposed to COVID-19 and were advised to quarantine must reach out to their professors for next steps.

COVID-19 testing 

The University is offering free, saliva-based COVID-19 testing for all students, faculty and staff. The Devils’ drop-off program provides testing kits at locations on all four campuses in the metropolitan Phoenix area as well as campuses in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. 

Individuals can pick up a test kit, register it online and drop it off at one of the on-campus locations with no appointment required. 

A test kit must be collected and dropped off within 24 hours of registering it online, and it should be dropped off at a site within one hour of collecting the sample.

ASU will also be continuing random COVID-19 testing of students and employees, regardless of vaccination status.

Although completing the tests is not explicitly required, the University “has every reason to believe” students and employees will participate. In November 2020, a University official said the compliance rate for random testing was 50% for on-campus students and around 25% for off-campus students.

Those who are selected for random testing will be notified via email, and they will have two calendar days to complete and submit their test.

Test results will come in approximately 48 hours after the test is collected. Students and staff can log in to their respective Health Portals to view their results. 

Student health and safety measures

Students taking classes on campus can pick up a Community of Care kit by presenting their ASU ID card at a Sun Devil Campus Store on any of the four metropolitan Phoenix campuses.

The Community of Care kits contain cloth face coverings, a thermometer, hand sanitizer and wipes. 

ASU has over 90,000 kits available for Fall 2021, a spokesperson said in an email. Each kit costs about $9 to produce.

The University’s janitorial services will continue to disinfect high-touch surfaces twice a day using surface wipes, disinfectant spray and a paper towel, or by fogging. 

Hand sanitizing stations will be available in locations all over campus, including in campus shuttles. 


Sun Devil Dining will be open for indoor dining in all of its facilities this semester with patio seating options available as well. It is expected that facilities will operate at 75% capacity at all locations, according to the first spokesperson.

Outdoor seating will also continue to be available, and ASU will "encourage students to take advantage of outdoor dining spaces as weather permits," the first spokesperson said in an email statement.

Indoor seating will be available at all ASU dining halls and at fast-casual dining venues such as Starbucks and Chick-fil-A. 

The use of standard dining utensils and plates will also resume for dine-in options. Sun Devil Dining will continue to have plexiglass at all cashiering stations, and all Sun Devil Dining employees will wear face coverings. 

Across the four campuses, dining halls are open from Monday through Thursday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. with the rest of the times varying by dining hall; other food services also vary each day. Dining hall schedules for each campus can be found on Sun Devil Dining's website


University Housing is planning to start in normal operations while "continuously watching the guidelines and the data and reviewing our protocols in accordance with what's happening both nationally and locally," the first spokesperson said in an email. 

Before students check into their rooms, staff will clean and disinfect appliances, door hardware, furniture, light switches, mattresses and restrooms. After move-in, students will be responsible for cleaning and disinfecting their own spaces.

Common areas will be disinfected at least twice a day. 

The University will be operating under its traditional guest policy for the upcoming semester, meaning that guests must be signed in to visit a residential community and present a form of ID, and the host must be with the guest at all times. 

ASU will continue to monitor what COVID-19 looks like in the residential communities and is flexible to change housing policies as needed, including adjusting visitation policy to only allow visitors from other rooms in the same residence halls. 

Overnight guests are limited to three nights in a row at most and no more than six nights per month.

The University will have isolation space available if needed. University Housing will work to find a space for students to isolate themselves if they need to do so.


Campus shuttles will resume full capacity operations for the fall semester. Face coverings will be required to ride the shuttles as part of the University’s updated mask policy. 

Inside the shuttles, seatbacks will have partitions, a plexiglass barrier will shield the driver and there will be hand sanitizer dispensers near the door. 

The Maroon and Gold routes’ regular weekday schedules resumed Aug. 9, and weekend service for the routes will begin on Aug. 21. The Mercado and Tempe-West Express routes also resumed services on Aug. 9. 

More information about individual routes can be found on the University’s campus shuttles page

Campus services: SDFC and libraries 

Masks are not required inside any of the Sun Devil Fitness Complex locations, and hand sanitizer dispensers have been placed throughout. Users will still be asked to maintain physical distance, and markers will be placed on the floors to remind users to maintain six feet of space. 

The Sun Devil Fitness Complex is currently operating on pre-pandemic methods in terms of how users will come into the building as the reservation system used last year is no longer required for building entry at this time, the first spokesperson said. 

All employees will have to take enhanced training on cleaning, sanitizing and safety protocols in the facilities. Plexiglass barriers have been installed at the front desk and equipment room checkout stations and enhanced air filters have been added to the HVAC systems.

The SDFC pools will still be limited to lap swimming and water exercise, and lanes can only be used by one person at a time. 

Group wellness classes will be based on activity and special limits. Classes will continue to operate under a reservation system to ensure there is a spot for all those who come to a class, the first spokesperson said. 

Intramural sports are planning to offer a full catalog, including flag football, basketball, volleyball, soccer, cornhole, spike ball and battleship. 

"Participants will be encouraged to evaluate their own health prior to participating, wear masks during play, and maintain physical distancing whenever possible," the first spokesperson said. 

For intramural sports, shared equipment will be sanitized regularly and personal equipment will be available on site. However, some shared equipment will not be provided to every participant, with the example of team jerseys, "participants and their teammates will be expected to wear similar colors, distinguishing them from the opposing team," the first spokesperson said. 

Students will no longer need to use Sun Cards to access the libraries. Furniture removed to promote social distancing has been returned to spaces in libraries. 

Additionally, study rooms no longer have maximum occupant capacities, but several study rooms can still be reserved online

Reservations are still required for the Makerspace, the Wurzburger Reading Room in Hayden Library, the Design & the Arts Special Collections Reading Room, and the Labriola National American Indian Data Center on the West and Tempe campuses. 

ASU events 

In a June 7 statement from vice president for University Athletics Ray Anderson, ASU announced it was moving forward with plans to hold the first football game with a full-capacity stadium. 

The first ASU football game is scheduled for Sept. 2 against Southern Utah University.

"We will continue to work closely with health officials to evaluate fan protocols and will have detailed plans to share with our fan base in the weeks leading up to kickoff," Anderson said in the statement.

The University has not released any new guidance or policies regarding athletic events, but a University spokesperson noted it is rare for games to reach full capacity early in the football season.

Sun Devil Stadium has an over 53,500 person capacity, and Desert Financial Arena can seat over 14,000.

Nonathletic events on campus that "relate to University business" or are paid for with ASU funds must comply with ASU guidance based on public health recommendations, government and ASU policy.

According to the guidelines, in-person events must be logged on the Special Event Registry Form. Events with between 250 and 1,000 people require approval from a dean, vice president or designee at least 10 days before the event. For events expecting over 1,000 people in attendance, the organizers must submit the event for dean or vice president approval no fewer than 30 days before the event. 

The only events exempt from the aforementioned University guidelines are staff meetings that do not require reserving a venue, academic courses, activities that are part of a course, approved recitals or Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts performances, Sun Devil Athletics practices and competitions, and Sun Devil Fitness and Wellness activities and programming. 

Visitors, guests and vendors are expected to comply with University guidelines.

Fall break, Thanksgiving 

Fall break is currently scheduled from Oct. 9-12. Thanksgiving Break will be on Nov. 25-26, and students will be expected to return to in-person classes following the break, according to an email from the first spokesperson.

Family Weekend

ASU’s Family Weekend 2021 is scheduled for Nov. 5-7. Registration and program information is expected to be shared later this fall.


Fall 2021 commencement ceremonies will be held the week of Dec. 13. More information regarding the graduation ceremonies will be available later in the semester.

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