Campus reentry update: Task force holds special briefing to discuss new COVID-19 mitigation efforts
Task Force Director Dr. Richard Carmona, Vice President of Communications Holly Jensen and University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins focused on on-campus mitigation efforts during the Sept. 1 task force press conference.
The campus Reentry Task Force held a special briefing on Tuesday, Sept.1, two days before their regularly scheduled weekly briefings to discuss new COVID-19 mitigation efforts like current wastewater testing updates and the discipline of students and organizations not complying with best public health practices.
UA President Robert C. Robbins discussed a private security that has been hired to monitor campus.
“On campus we have two major initiatives, first we are hiring monitors from a private security company to patrol and ensure compliance of health and safety directives,” Robbins said.
The private security team that will be used was not specified, although Robbins provided details that they have been used for big campus events in the past, like football games. There will most likely be six individuals monitoring campus every day to enforce social distancing and masks on campus.
They are also working with COVID-19 Ambassador Team students, which is a campus group that encourages students to "bear down and mask up". These students will have a visible and positive presence handing out water, extra masks, providing information about public health protocols and other assistance to their fellow students.
The task force also addressed wastewater testing’s ability to catch a potential outbreak before any physical symptoms could have been recognized, like demonstrated last week at Likins Residence Hall. This wastewater testing might eventually be provided for large student populations off-campus, such as sororities and fraternities.
Parts of Coronado Residence Hall, Arizona Sonora and Árbol de la Vida are all being tested due to contact tracing efforts. Robbins said that mobile testing was provided over the weekend for Likins Residence Hall, the Alpha Phi sorority house and the high rise apartments surrounding campus, as these places had seen multiple positive cases.
Testing for the dorms that identified with positive cases is underway, and those students will go through the quarantine program described in the past, which still has plenty of capacity, according to Dr. Richard Carmona, UA's reentry task force director.
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In reference to contact tracing teams, Robbins highly encouraged students to comply with these teams.
“I’m asking our students, please be cooperative with contact tracers, it is in the good public health of our society, please be cooperative with the contact tracers,” he said.
Robbins emphasized that contact tracers are not allowed to share personal information, therefore they will not report students for attending parties; they are there for the purpose of utilizing contact tracing.
The university held a seminar the morning of Sept. 1 for off-campus building managers/fraternity and sorority houses on isolation, cleaning practices, and other COVID-19 related mitigation and response issues. Robbins encouraged fraternity and sorority houses to assign at least one individual to address compliance.
Robbins and Carmona addressed punishment of students going forward for not following public health ordinances and attend large gatherings.
Through the university neighborhood hotline, working with the Tucson Police Department and the Campus Area Response Team, seven separate calls have been made about five off-campus houses; the student renters were informed about safety precautions and public health guidelines.
“If we see departures, with the eyes we’ve now created through the groups that the president has already described to help us with compliance...if we see departures, we will act accordingly, there will be discipline, including expulsion, whether it’s an individual or an organization, we can’t tolerate departure from those practices,” Carmona said.
Repeat violators, on or off-campus, will go through student code of conduct through the dean of students or the provost’s office and be disciplined as seen fit.
Going into Labor Day weekend, Carmona and Robbins urged students to be more careful than ever in not having large gatherings and social distancing. They emphasized that so much of the effort must be on students’ end by not attending large social gatherings.
“What concerns the president, myself ... is that these individuals who do not comply with the best health practices will affect the health, safety and security of our community, that they will transmit disease ... For the privilege of being here, you have to help us," Carmona said. "You are our greatest strength, but you are our greatest weakness if you don’t comply with these public health best practices."
Robbins stated the university will continue with the current status of only having essential courses being conducted in person.
The press conference can watched in full here.