This Week in COVID: No Labor Day Spike Yet Detected, ASU Faces More Criticism

It’s Tuesday, September 15. Over 208,700 people have been infected with COVID-19 in Arizona and over 5,300 people have died from it. In the last week, 2,680 new cases and 101 deaths were added to the state’s total. Here’s what happened in that time:

The seven-day average of new cases is back to where it was at the end of May. Hospital ICU bed capacity is around 80 percent, but only 10 percent of that is COVID-19 patients, the lowest proportion since April 10. No major post-Labor Day spike in case numbers appears to have emerged yet, although the beginning of the month saw a slight jump in cases that has since subsided.

The stats as of September 14.

The stats as of September 14.

The COVID Tracking Project

The rate of spread continues to tick upwards. Arizona’s r-number has hit 1.05. This means 100 people with COVID-19 will infect an additional 105 people on average and is a sign that we may see daily case numbers increase in coming weeks.

Arizona State University has announced 1,498 COVID-19 cases since the beginning of August. University administrators had declined to provide cumulative numbers, instead providing a count of “active” cases, but relented on Wednesday. ASU has had the seventh-most cases of any university in the country, according to a New York Times analysis. The University of Arizona has had 1,148 cases and Northern Arizona University is “managing” 96.

ASU administrators defended the decision to reopen. President Michael Crow told the media that the university was planning to deal with COVID-19 indefinitely and was off to a “good start” but had seen more on-campus spread than expected.

Some student workers at ASU disagree with this assessment. The ASU Community of Care Coalition shared some anonymous testimonies from workers on campus at a virtual town hall Friday evening. The majority were community assistants, ASU’s version of resident advisers, who reiterated concerns about having to deal with gatherings of students that they shared with Phoenix New Times previously. But also on hand was a person hired to do tech support for virtual learning who said instructors had struggled with the transition. One of the community assistants spoke to New Times afterward and described trying to drop hints to residents on their floor to get tested for COVID-19 because they were prohibited from telling them about an exposure.

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Not everyone is critical. Simin Levinson, the elected head of the senate representing ASU faculty, contacted New Times to share a letter the executive council of the senate sent out to faculty praising Crow’s availability and responsiveness.

Meanwhile, the University of Arizona announced Monday that it is recommending students quarantine at home for 14 days. This comes after the Tucson university has seen a spike in cases, including 120 off-campus students who tested positive recently.

Speaking of off-campus issues, President Crow sent a letter to the Arizona Department of Health Services last Wednesday documenting crowding at three Mill Ave businesses. Two were bars, and the other was a bubble tea establishment.

Bar owners’ effort to challenge the governor’s order closing bars hit a setback when Maricopa County judge Pamela Gates found that the order’s distinction between restaurants serving alcohol and bars was reasonable. The judge also noted that many of the plaintiffs had already made deals with the state to reopen. The lawyer for the bar owners said they plan to take the lawsuit to the Arizona Supreme Court

Maricopa County as a whole has reached state benchmarks to move to a hybrid online and in-person schooling model. The county is still recommending that a number of districts in the West Valley and Tempe remain virtual-only due to higher rates of COVID-19 in those communities. The Phoenix Union High School District announced Monday that it would not resume in-person classes through the end of the year.

The Scottsdale Unified School District has decided to phase in in-person classes for parents who decide they want to send their kids back to school. Half of parents who filled out an online survey distributed by the district said they wanted to return to classes now. Parents who want to keep their kids learning remotely will be allowed to do so.

The City of Phoenix is offering free COVID-19 testing in the next few weeks. To find the best location for you and pre-register, go here. Equality Health is also offering a free testing site on Saturday.