Northern Arizona University to start school year early

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Northern Arizona University will start and end the fall semester earlier this year to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the university said.

President Rita Cheng announced in an email Thursday that classes will start Aug. 12 and end before Thanksgiving Day. The semester was previously scheduled from Aug. 24 to Dec. 11.

“Our goal is to take advantage of a period of expected lower COVID-19 case rates, exceptional weather for encouraging outdoor activities, and lower rates of student travel, prior to any potential resurgence of the virus,” Cheng said.

MAP: Arizona Coronavirus cases by zip code

The university plans to increase cleaning and sanitation measures, require facial coverings in common areas and maintain social distancing guidelines and protocols for testing and screening, Cheng said.

All three state universities expect to resume in-person classes this fall and are working on plans to ensure a safe return, although the specifics of how campuses will operate are not conclusive.

Continuing Coverage:

— The state Department of Health Services on Tuesday reported the statewide death toll to 1,070 and the case total to 28,296.

— The state's top health official said increased hospitalizations indicated continued community spread of COVID-19 “and underscore the importance of COVID-19 prevention measures all Arizonans should take.”

Dr. Cara Christ said Arizonans should practice physical distancing, stay home when sick, wear a cloth face-covering in public settings and frequently wash their hands.

“With the phased reopening, it’s important for Arizonans to understand that COVID-19 is widespread and still circulating in our community,” Christ said.

Gov. Doug Ducey allowed his stay-at-home orders to end May 15, and a surge of new cases began about 10 days later — about the time it takes an infected person to develop symptoms.

Ducey said that all deaths were mourned but that the surge in cases wasn't unexpected and not yet a trend that merited reimposing restrictions.

Banner Health officials said Friday the Phoenix-based hospital chain was having to shuttle COVID-19 patients and staff between facilities to avoid overloading intensive care units.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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.