Arizona State University students return to campus amid omicron COVID-19 surge

Jan 11, 2022, 4:35 AM
(File Facebook Photo/Arizona State University)...
(File Facebook Photo/Arizona State University)
(File Facebook Photo/Arizona State University)

PHOENIX — Thousands of Arizona State University students returned to campus Monday with new COVID-19 protocols in place as the omicron variant of the virus surges.

“What we said is let’s continue to just move forward, let’s continue to manage this virus the best we can,” ASU President Michael Crow told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Gaydos and Chad Show on Monday.

“We got lots of testing and we are using masks where we need to use masks and it’s thus far working out pretty well.”

Face coverings are now required inside all ASU classrooms, as well as university buildings where physical distancing is not possible. Crow said the university offers higher-grade medical masks for those who want them.

The 78,000 on-campus students prior to returning also had to take a COVID-19 test, which Crow said resulted in many positive cases due to omicron. ASU will provide weekly COVID-19 reports including cases, hospitalizations and vaccination numbers for faculty, staff and students online.

He said students who test positive will go through protocols quickly to get back to the classroom, with Zoom also being an option.

Students who test positive for COVID-19 won’t need a negative test to return, Crow said, as the university is going off more advanced protocols that allow students back if they go five days with no symptoms.

“We are going off the best protocols that we possibly can which allow people to move through this omicron phase more quickly,” Crow said.

Free saliva-based testing is available for all students and to faculty, staff and their family members, Crow said, while vaccines and boosters are also available to students, faculty and staff.

Crow said the university has a very high vaccination rate against the virus among staff and faculty, with modest vaccinations among students.

As for when the COVID-19 protocols, such as masks, may no longer be necessary, Crow said it all depends on community spread of the virus.

“We’ll go off basically the spread number,” Crow said. “So if the spread number goes below a certain threshold and it looks like we are moving into the endemic phase of this thing, then we’ll go back to masks as not required.”

Crow added the university will go day-by-day with protocols and adjust up and down as needed, which he said has allowed most students and graduates to not miss any days in addition to giving people a chance to move forward.

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Arizona State University students return to campus amid omicron COVID-19 surge