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NAU’s fall 2020 commencement to be virtual, campus COVID-19 cases are less than expected
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NAU’s fall 2020 commencement to be virtual, campus COVID-19 cases are less than expected

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NAU Back In Person After Covid (copy)

Northern Arizona University students and staff walk the pedway by the University Union during a passing period between classes on Aug. 31, the first day of in-person classes after starting the semester online.

Northern Arizona University President Rita Cheng announced Tuesday the university will be holding its fall 2020 commencement ceremony virtually in response to COVID-19.

“We know this is difficult news, especially for students who have worked hard to complete their degrees at a time of unimaginable stress and continued challenges. We know family and friends have looked forward to celebrating their loved ones' accomplishments in person,” Cheng said in a Twitter post Tuesday afternoon.

Fall 2020 graduates will receive more information in the coming weeks about the Nov. 22 virtual ceremony, including how they can opt into receiving a virtual graduation kit.

NAU’s May commencement ceremony was similarly held in a virtual format, with short video presentations from Cheng as well as representatives from the Associated Students of NAU, Graduate Student Government, Alumni Association and the Arizona Board of Regents.

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“On behalf of the Lumberjack community, we want you to know how proud we are of all of your achievements, your resilience, and your perseverance. We look forward to celebrating our graduates at our virtual commencement later this fall,” Cheng wrote Tuesday.

According to a count by Coconino County Health and Human Services, as of Tuesday, 59 COVID-19 cases have been recorded on the NAU campus, based on ZIP code of residence. Other areas of Flagstaff total more than 1,500 cases of the county’s 3,402 confirmed positives.

“We haven’t seen a large increase or influx of cases surrounding NAU,” said Coconino County epidemiologist Matt Maurer. “We would expect the increased potential for congregating with in-person classes starting back up and people moving onto campus. We would expect to see increases there, but we haven’t seen a very large increase just yet.”

Starting this week, the University of Arizona has asked students to voluntarily shelter in place for the next two weeks as a result of an increase in positive cases among students, which President Robert Robbins has attributed to students partying.

Since July 31, 770 UA students and four university employees have tested positive for COVID-19. More than 200 are currently quarantining in dorms or elsewhere.

At Arizona State University, President Michael Crow sent a letter to Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ and the head of the state Department of Liquor Licenses and Control about alleged violations of COVID-19 safety protocols in restaurant-bars near ASU’s Tempe campus. Crow said these actions, including individuals not wearing masks or social distancing in these bars, could worsen the spread of COVID-19 in both the ASU and Tempe communities.

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