Arizona college students question response to virus case
PHOENIX (AP) — A confirmed case of a virus outbreak from China at Arizona State University has left students feeling alarmed, despite the school’s attempts to tamp down panic.
From putting on masks to signing a petition to cancel classes, students are questioning whether the university and health officials were doing enough. The university said in a statement that its Tempe campus was open. Officials also reiterated the Arizona Department of Health Services’ findings that the risk to the general public of contracting the strain of coronavirus was low.
State health officials confirmed Sunday that one person in Maricopa County was infected with the new virus. The patient has ties to the ASU community but does not live in school housing. The person had traveled to Wuhan, China, which is at the epicenter of the outbreak.
Officials with the state Department of Health Services said the patient wasn’t severely ill and was isolated at home to keep the illness from spreading. The department said it would not release potentially identifying information on the person, including the gender and age, and declined to say whether the person was a student or faculty member.
“Public health is communicating with individuals exposed to the case who are at risk of becoming infected. If a person has not been contacted by Maricopa County Public Health, they are not at risk,” spokeswoman Sonia Singh said.
A university call center received about 60 calls Monday asking about whether classes would be canceled, according to the school. Nearly 20,000 students, meanwhile, have signed a Change.org petition calling on the university to do more. The petition is demanding the university cease classes until more precautions are taken such as disinfecting areas the patient visited.
David Klein, a junior who lives in an apartment building not far from campus, is going to class. But he is making sure to wash his hands often.
“I’m not completely buying into all the hysteria,” Klein said. “But I’m staying diligent about pushing elevator buttons with the back of my elbow or my wrist — just general winter flu precautions.”
One of his roommates, however, opted to stay at his girlfriend’s for the next 10 days. And other residents in his building are making temporary living arrangements.
Some students are wearing masks around campus and have also taken to social media to complain about stores in and around Tempe running out of masks.
There have been four other coronavirus cases reported in the U.S. — two in Southern California and one each in Washington state and Chicago. All are people who had recently traveled from central China.