The University of Arizona’s COVID-19 Reentry Task Force met Monday morning to discuss the continued improvement in virus mitigation and the possible progression into Phase 2 of reentry.
RELATED: Q&A: New dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology, Gary Packard, Jr. talks STEM
UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins began by announcing that in-person instruction will remain for “essential courses only” for this week, Oct. 5 to Oct. 9. However, Robbins suggested that in-person instruction for small classes may begin next week.
“Next week, the week of Oct. 12,” Robbins said, “we are planning to add in-person instruction for classes of 30 or fewer students if — very importantly — if our public health metrics continue the positive trend we've seen recently.”
Robbins went on to clarify in-person instruction for small classes would begin only for those courses which are designated either as in-person or flex in-person. He also expressed optimism about the transition to Phase 2, noting there have been no detected instances of COVID-19 transmission in a classroom or laboratory setting so far.
While the rate of transmission for the state of Arizona rose over the course of the last week to 1.01, Robbins said the Rt for the UA's zip code — 85719 — was down to 0.16, suggesting that transmission in and around campus is very low.
On the latest testing day, Oct. 2, there were 11 positive tests out of 1,282 individuals tested (a positivity rate of 0.9%). Six out of the 11 positives that day were symptomatic cases detected at Campus Health.
“External factors remain largely favorable,” Robbins said. “Of a particular note, the number of COVID-19 patients in local hospitals was at 46 on Friday, Oct. 2, compared with a high of 56 in the preceding seven days, so we're going in the right direction.”
In light of these improved metrics, task force Director Dr. Richard Carmona reminded listeners to continue observing public health precautions both on and off campus.
“Again, we're not complacent,” Carmona said. “It shows we're doing the right thing. It shows that overall, people are being compliant. It shows that we are creating a relatively safe campus, but again, the campus doesn't live alone. The campus lives within the city and the county.”
There were 14 CART deployments last week, including one to a party of over 100 attendees. Three university-related red tags, five citations and five code of conduct referrals were issued.
The university began randomly testing students residing in the dorms last week. Random testing of employees will begin Oct. 5 and random testing of students residing off-campus will begin next Monday, Oct. 12.
“We need everyone to remain vigilant," Robbins said. "We've got basically October and most of November to get through this term. We've got to bear down and mask up and be serious about this because we can do this. If we wash our hands, cover our face and keep distance between people, it will go a long way."
Finally, the COVID-19 ambassador team and helpline was announced, which will answer questions for students regarding anything related to the University of Arizona and COVID-19. The hotline is “run by students, for students” and operates seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The number to call the hotline is (520) 848-4045.
Follow Kristijan Barnjak on Twitter