As the start of school quickly approaches, University of Arizona President Dr. Robert C. Robbins and Reentry Task Force Director Richard Carmona met virtually at the weekly campus reentry briefing Thursday to discuss COVID-19 trends and answer questions on dorm move-in and student compliance.
Carmona presented a slideshow detailing coronavirus statistics both statewide and countywide, and compared Arizona’s reported cases with other U.S. states.
Based on the data presented, Arizona’s weekly confirmed cases are still on a downward trend, as are cases and deaths for Pima County. Likewise, the percentage of occupied ICU beds and ventilators in use are trending downward.
“Some decisions are still somewhat empirical,” Carmona said. “We do change from one week to the next, but that’s because science evolves. … We’re learning more about this virus every day.”
Carmona also showed a slide — which was also included in the Aug. 6 briefing — including data points he said the university uses to make some of those decisions on the return to campus.
“We have a public health advisory team made up of epidemiologists and hygienists and a whole host of multidisciplinary people based at the College of Public Health,” Carmona said. “They work with our team on a daily basis so we can extract the best data.”
Robbins said the data will continue to be key in determining if the university can remain open for some in-person instruction.
“We’re going to carefully watch [the data] and hope that people follow the rules and that our numbers don’t spike out of control,” Robbins said. “I’m cautiously optimistic, I’m hopeful, but we will follow the numbers and follow the data.”
Robbins said the UA has already tested over 1,000 students, including some living off campus and resident assistants, and only one has tested positive. That student is currently staying in an isolation dorm room at Babcock Residence Hall, which has been set aside for students who test positive for COVID-19.
All students moving into residence halls will receive an antigen test and must test negative before they are able to move into their dorms. Students who test positive must either go to the UA’s isolation dorm or return to a residence off campus to isolate for at least 10 days.
Campus move-in begins Friday, Aug. 14.
According to Robbins, who gave a brief overview of the process, there will be parking available on the UA Mall while students receive the antigen test in McKale Center. He said there will be a designated waiting area in McKale Center for the student’s family members while the student is tested — parents will not be tested. Students will be texted their results and then be allowed to move into their dorm if they tested negative.
Robbins said there has already been some reports from fraternity houses that some students moving in are not wearing masks or social distancing, and he said members of the UA’s Incident Command System, of which Carmona is the head, will be in discussion with them.
While Robbins said they are not planning on policing mask-wearing in classrooms, there are methods of compliance put in place through the Dean of Students Office.
“If you’re a student, there’s a whole process through the Dean of Students and Code of Conduct that will be applied around disruption, and not having a face covering inside our building will be deemed a disruption,” Robbins said.
Robbins and Carmona both said they still feel it is important students have the opportunity to come back for in-person instruction in the fall.
“Because of all the efforts of our faculty and staff and students willing to come back and cooperate, we feel it is worth the test to be able to do this,” Carmona said.
The full reentry briefing can be found on the UA's YouTube channel.
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