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Crow signals plans to remove mask mandate citing 'freedom of choice'

While face coverings and daily health checks are still required, ASU President Michael Crow anticipates looser COVID-19 measures in the near future

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ASU President Michael Crow speaks during a meeting with The State Press on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022 at the Fulton Center in Tempe.

In a meeting with The State Press Friday, ASU President Michael Crow said "it is highly likely that we will adjust the mask requirements" and some other COVID-19 restrictions.

Masks have been required inside all ASU buildings since August 2021 where social distancing is not possible. After Crow said the mask requirement would be adjusted, he said, "I hate them (masks) — worse than anything you can possibly imagine."

The daily health check will become optional and the mask mandate will move "towards freedom of choice by the wearer," Crow said. He did not reveal a timeline for the changes because there are still positive cases detected every day and a number of other factors that make creating a definitive change difficult.

"Our local epidemiologists produce a daily report every single day," Crow said. "All that data, all those facts, all that analysis leads us to believe that we're in a very good position right now."

In an email statement, University spokesperson Christopher Fiscus said the University adjusts to what it's seeing. Even though random testing was phased out at the beginning of the semester, the University still analyzes tests from community members who come in with symptoms or want to be tested. The University still analyzes wastewater from residence halls to detect viruses which could detect a future outbreak.

Crow said no students, faculty or staff members at ASU have been hospitalized for COVID-19 this semester.

Joan Sherwood, executive director of marketing and communications for Educational Outreach and Student Services, similarly did not provide a timeline for when the University will implement the new COVID-19 guidelines.

The University halted randomized COVID-19 testing during winter break with the outbreak of the omicron variant. On Friday, Crow confirmed the University would no longer randomly notify and then require students, faculty and staff to get tested.

"When the numbers are as high as they are with omicron, it is literally hopeless to contact trace. So, at least for now, random sampling doesn't either serve as an actionable monitoring approach or a mitigation approach," said Chief Science and Technology Officer Neal Woodbury.

About 95% of ASU faculty and staff members are either vaccinated against COVID-19 or are "meeting a medical or religious exemption," Sherwood said in an email Monday.

Since President Joe Biden's mandate to vaccinate all federal workers nationwide was dismissed by a federal court in January, ASU has not dismissed any employees for not being vaccinated, Crow said.

The University is still awaiting approval for its three new COVID-19 tests from the Food and Drug Administration, according to Sherwood.

Positive COVID-19 cases at ASU have declined for the fifth week in a row to 151 from last week's report of 251, according to the University's update released Monday evening.

Of the 145 reported student COVID-19 cases, 137 are residing off-campus. There are six students in isolation on the Tempe campus and two isolating across the Downtown Phoenix, West and Polytechnic campuses. Faculty and staff cases declined from 33 to 16, a decrease of 17 from last week's report.

On Monday, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported two new COVID-19 cases and no deaths.

Correction: ASU incorrectly reported employee positive cases at the time of publication and corrected the number on Feb. 28, 2022. The story was updated on March 1, 2022, to reflect the correction.




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

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Jasmine KabiriSenior Reporter

Jasmine Kabiri is a senior reporter at The State Press. She has previously worked at The Daily Camera, a local newspaper in Boulder, Colorado. 


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