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Union asking ASU, UA to go remote for start of spring semester

The union representing workers at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona is asking both institutions to implement safety measures as they begin the spring semester amid the latest COVID-19 spike of the omicron variant.

In a Tuesday video announcement, ASU President Michael Crow said ASU would be fully operational for the spring semester which begins Jan. 10. The university is asking students to get tested for COVID-19 before coming to campus, or get tested as soon as they arrive.

"So testing, testing is going to be really important for this next semester," Crow said. "I just want to get the word out to you that we are fully operational moving forward, preparing during this winter break for you to come back in the spring so we are excited about getting things underway next week.”

Crow didn't state in the video if the tests were mandatory, and if there are any repercussions for students who do not want to get tested. 

If a student tests positive, Crow said they will be able to Zoom into class while they isolate for five days. In addition, masks will also be required in all buildings where social distancing isn’t possible. This is similar to the policy ASU had in place in the fall. Crow announced ASU is bring back its daily health checks in light of the omicron variant. 

But Laurie Stoff with United Campus Workers of Arizona doesn't think these measures don't go far enough. 

“It seemed to me that all that President Crow did was reiterate was already in place, and what was already understood to be insufficient," she said. 

Stoff also referenced most recent weekly random testing results from 37 on-campus students and 310 off-campus students. On-campus students had a COVID-19 positivity rate of nearly 19%, while off-campus students had a COVID-19 positivity rate of nearly 18%. 

In Wednesday letter to the university leaders, United Campus Workers of Arizona asked the institutions to mandate masks in all indoor settings, as well as shift to remote work and classes at least for the first three weeks of the semester and require regular COVID-19 testing for all, and COVID-19 vaccination for students, except those with medical or religious exemptions. They also want the university to provide free, high quality masks for all students and employees. 

ASU and UA did not respond to a request for comment on the union's letter. 

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Rocio Hernandez was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2022.