For the first time this fall, Arizona State University last week released a cumulative number of COVID-19 cases.
Since Aug. 1, the university reported, there have been 1,305 students and 25 faculty that have tested positive for the coronavirus and 610 students have since been released from isolation.
The new data came after ASU President Michael Crow vowed in a press conference Wednesday to release the previously undisclosed number. The university had been releasing only the number of active cases.
The measure of active cases excludes anyone who has tested positive for the virus but has since been allowed to leave isolation. As of Sept. 6, there were 825 active cases.
ASU allows individuals with a positive test to return to work or school if they have spent 10 days in isolation without symptoms. Those with symptoms must isolate for 10 days as well, but must also record 24 hours without a fever, according to ASU Health Services’ website.
Most students who test positive do not exhibit severe symptoms, according to Vice President of Student Services Joanne Vogel.
“The vast majority of cases are asymptomatic. If they are not asymptomatic, then they have mild symptoms which might mean fever, fatigue, the type of symptomology that can be fairly easily managed with over-the-counter medication,” Vogel said.
Five ASU students have been hospitalized due to the virus since January. However, there have been no hospitalizations since the spring, according to Vogel.
Although he promised and subsequently provided a cumulative number, Crow defended his decision to previously not disclose this information and criticized those who have not updated case numbers to reflect only active cases.
“This is something that has not been done by the health department and not been done by the media in general. Somehow, someone who was positive in May is still listed as positive on all the charts,” Crow said.
The change in reporting comes as Crow prepares for what he called, “the long haul.” He says that he anticipates dealing with COVID-19 for quite a while.
“Management of the virus will be essential for the foreseeable future,” Crow said.
In fact, an option to attend class remotely may become a tool the university utilizes long after COVID-19 goes away. A robust health and wellness app might also stick around, according to Crow.
“If it’s the flu, if it’s COVID, if it’s something else, stay at home and Zoom-in. We think that we can upgrade the health outcomes of the entire university community by implementing some of these technologies over the long haul,” Crow said.
Additionally, the university is working on a COVID-19 test that will produce results in a matter of minutes rather than days.
The test would be designed for use in situations where an immediate reading is needed, such as an athletic event, according to Dr. Joshua LaBaer, executive director of ASU’s Biodesign Institute.
These are the kind of projects that ASU hopes to make available not just at a university level but to the general public as well, Crow said.
“We’re hopeful that we’re a little bit of an icebreaker, breaking the ice to build a lane so that we can figure out how institutions can operate going forward,” Crow said.
“That’s very much what we’re in the business of doing.”