TEMPE, Ariz. - Arizona’s three universities plan to hold classes on campus this fall with precautions to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the presidents said Thursday.
Michael Crow of Arizona State University, Robert Robbins of the University of Arizona, and Rita Cheng of Northern Arizona University said they would follow recommendations from state and local health authorities when their classes resume in August.
“While risk factors cannot be eliminated entirely, we believe we can decrease the risk to health and safety through a variety of measures,” Cheng wrote in an email to students and staff.
Cheng said the campus reopening plan will include testing for COVID-19 and tracing the contacts of people who test positive. The Flagstaff university will create social distancing policies in public areas and classrooms, and will implement safety and health measures in residential and dining facilities, she said
Administrators will also seek more space to house bigger classes so students can maintain distance from one another, Cheng said.
Crow and Robbins did not detail the changes they are considering, nor did they say whether students would be invited to live on campus. Spokespeople for the universities did not immediately respond to requests for more information.
Robbins had previously said there could be options for a hybrid environment on the Tucson campus in which classes are offered through a mixture of face-to-face and online instruction.
He has announced plans to offer antibody testing to everyone on campus that will show whether they have ever been infected with COVID-19. Scientists are hopeful that people who recover from the disease will have some level of immunity, but research has not yet determined whether the antibodies will prevent infection.
In March, ASU announced that online classes at the university would be extended through the end of the spring semester amid COVID-19.
The school also moved its spring commencement to a virtual ceremony.
Arizona on Thursday reported 16 new deaths from the coronavirus and 446 new cases. The big jump in cases is likely a reflection of increased testing.
Deaths were reported in Maricopa and Mohave counties, as well as Coconino, Navajo, and Apache counties that are home to the Navajo Nation. The tribe has worked aggressively to contain a severe outbreak of the disease.
The Arizona Department of Health Services tracks confirmed cases, but a lack of testing and the fact that many people have few or no symptoms means the number of cases is likely much higher.
Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday extended his stay-at-home order through May 15 but said he will allow some nonessential retail businesses to reopen with health precautions. The Republican governor said there are signs the spread of the new virus has slowed in the state, but there’s no clear indication that deaths and new cases are trending down.
The state plans a testing blitz over the next three Saturdays, aiming to test as many as 20,000 people each day.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. But it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death for some people, especially older adults and people with existing health problems.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
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