ASU starts semester with increased enrollment, virus precautions

Aug 20, 2020, 6:00 AM | Updated: 10:57 am
(Facebook Photo/Arizona State University)...
(Facebook Photo/Arizona State University)
(Facebook Photo/Arizona State University)

PHOENIX — Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Arizona State University began the fall semester Thursday with an increase in student enrollment and a multitude of public health precautions.

With approximately 125,000 individuals registered for classes, ASU’s fall enrollment increased by 7% from the previous year, according to a press release.

The university is offering students in-person, hybrid and virtual learning options and has provided its community with a variety of supplies and protocols to limit the risks of COVID-19.

“We’re very excited to welcome back students and students are excited to come back,” university spokesman Jay Thorne told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday morning.

“Behavior is going to be a little bit different this year, but the enthusiasm of a new school year is the same as always.”

ASU has issued 150,000 community of care kits to students and staff, which includes face coverings, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and a thermometer.

The educational institution also has one million tubes available for saliva-based coronavirus tests, 100,000 surgical-grade masks for campus personnel, 300,000 face coverings to be distributed at various events and four railroad cars fully stocked with hand sanitizer.

Courses with 100 or more students are required to be conducted virtually, while those with enrollment less than 100 are subject to social distancing measures and, if needed, staggered in-person attendance.

“It’ll be nice to have some in-person classes,” nursing student Hannah Lowery said. “It’s kind of hard to learn some things online.”

ASU has also launched a program aiming to test 7% of asymptomatic community members each week.

Other public health protocols include: suspension of visitors in residence halls, medical-grade and repeated cleaning of all campus spaces, plexiglas barriers in high-frequency areas, takeout only in dining halls, in-person and telehealth services for all students and reduced intercampus shuttle capacity.

“They’ve done a lot … to make sure we’re social distancing and wearing masks,” Lowery said.

All health protocols also extend to campus visitors.

On Aug. 6, ASU President Michael Crow said the institution had a plan in place to socially isolate students who contract coronavirus.

While those who contract COVID-19 won’t be individually identified to the ASU community, Crow told KTAR News’ Gaydos and Chad that residence halls will be arranged accordingly when a positive case has been identified.

“If we can’t socially isolate the person in the residence hall, then the person will be socially isolated in another facility we’ll have available,” Crow said.

“It sort of depends on the individual circumstances — the design of the building, the way the building works, are they rooms versus apartments, that sort of thing.”

Due to privacy concerns and the fact that most ASU students do not live on campus, Crow said he favors a ZIP code-based approach as a means of communicating the university’s COVID-19 data.

“We think the best way for information on positive cases to be expressed is the way that we express … that data to the health department — it’s then allocated by ZIP code,” Crow said.

On July 27, Crow confirmed in a statement to the ASU community the university would stick with its plan to resume the fall semester on Aug. 20 with both in-person and virtual learning options.

On June 12, ASU mandated the use of face masks for all employees, students and visitors in campus buildings or outdoor spaces where physical distancing isn’t possible.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross contributed to this report.

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ASU starts semester with increased enrollment, virus precautions