Though K-8 schools in Arizona are closed, the three state universities remain open, with dorms and food service continuing as students return from spring break. Each university is offering online learning options and not requiring students to be on campus. Otherwise, each has taken a different approach, including whether to offer any refunds.
Arizona State University in Tempe: “The university remains open as classes move to a digital format and teleworking is established for many staff and faculty. However, buildings with access control systems will be accessible only by key or Sun Card… University housing, cafeterias, health clinics and counseling services remain open.” ASU is not offering refunds on housing or meal plans.
Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff: “The NAU mountain campus will remain open and operational. This includes university housing, computer labs, food service, Campus Health Services, library access and many other units across the university.” NAU is not offering refunds on housing or meal plans.
University of Arizona in Tucson: “We have asked students not to return to live on campus if they have a suitable alternative living option. With these unique and unprecedented circumstances, Housing & Residential Life is offering a credit for spring 2020 semester housing to students who are moving out of the dorms now.”
Grand Canyon University, a private Christian university in Phoenix, is also offering online learning and will “provide a housing credit for those students who have moved off campus by the end of the day on Wednesday, March 25.”
Caroline Buckee, associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, questions the wisdom of leaving dorms open as COVID-19 spreads rapidly around the country.
“Dorm environments are places where we expect COVID-19 to transmit efficiently, because people are in close proximity,” Buckee told the health website Elemental. Universities should “really try hard to limit dense populations of people who could be spreading the virus,” she said.
“We recognize that for some of our students – this [staying in the dorms] is their only option,” NAU told Elemental.
Arizona has so far seen 508 cases and eight deaths, as of March 26, modest compared to several other states. But the state health department now says “all Arizonans should expect that COVID-19 is circulating in their community.”
Buckee says the state should look to other places with severe outbreaks as examples of what is likely to come here, given that many people are carrying and transmitting the disease without knowing they have it, and the incubation period is anywhere from 2 to 14 days, and other research finding that for every person diagnosed with COVID-19, five to 10 others are thought to be infected.
“Transmission happening now is going to end up with hospitalizations in two to three weeks,” she said.