TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- From some of the highest COVID cases to some of the lowest, it's been a huge turnaround for Arizona universities. Although college students are low on the vaccination priority list, they're optimistic COVID cases will stay low. A year of that "college experience" was radically changed.

"Last week was a good time to reflect on the past year, so I think it's given people a new jolt of excitement to get this vaccine," said ASU junior Jack Johnson.


Johnson said it feels a whole lot different — a whole lot better — than it did during the winter surge of cases. He knows firsthand; he had a serious case of COVID-19 in November.

"I had trouble breathing at full capacity for maybe 3-4 months afterward," Johnson said.

At that time and in the months to follow, Arizona universities had a high rate of spread with case numbers in the thousands. But now, there's been a huge shift in the right direction.

As of Wednesday, 3/17, ASU has 66 COVID cases; 50 of them are off-campus. The University of Arizona has 34 cases over the past 10 days, with 10 new cases on Wednesday. NAU has 25 cases total, both on and off-campus.

"I feel like students are understanding more that, 'Hey, if I want to have a normal life, this is the step I need to take," said ASU senior Kylie Vacala.

Vacala said the school is also helping out university student workers.

"What a great thing ASU is doing is vaccinating their student workers, so a lot of people I know have actually gotten vaccinated. I've gotten vaccinated," Vacala said.

Honor Health COVID-19 Task Force chair Dr. Sam Durrani said although there may be some immunity at college campuses, there is a big reason everyone getting vaccinated is so important.

"The way that we stop the virus from mutating is to stop it from replicating and spreading, and young people, if they want to see COVID go away in their lifetimes, then they should get vaccinated and prevent it from changing," Dr. Durrani said.

Both Johnson and Vacala said they're encouraged by what the near-future could look like.

"I think that everybody should get the vaccine. That's the only way we put this pandemic behind us," Johnson said.

If you want to follow the universities' COVID numbers, all three have COVID dashboards that also break down some more information. For more information on ASU's coronavirus dashboard, click here. For more information on UArizona's coronavirus dashboard, click here. For more information on NAU's coronavirus dashboard, click here.


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