The University of Arizona’s COVID-19 reentry task force met Monday morning to discuss the continued increase of COVID-19 cases in and around the university community.
UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins began the meeting by reminding viewers to exercise their right to vote on Nov. 3. He then proceeded by announcing that the university will remain in Phase 2 of reentry, meaning in-person and flex in-person classes of 50 or less will have the option to meet.
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Robbins, as in previous weeks, strongly urged students to fill out the holiday travel survey and schedule an appointment to get tested before leaving for Thanksgiving.
“For the university's plan to be effective,” Robbins said, “we need all students to complete the survey, schedule their testing and follow the guidelines listed on our travel website. As we prepare for the Spring semester, we will continue to follow the data and listen to public health professionals and medical experts. Please do your part, cover your face, wash your hands and keep physical distance.”
This past week saw both an increase in large social gatherings and an increase in COVID-19 transmission.
“We knew that Halloween would bring some increased social activities, but there was a spike in large gatherings of over 100 people reported to the Campus Area Response Team," Robbins said. "[Dr. Richard Carmona] will go into the exact numbers, but it's very concerning and very disappointing to me. As I've said, this could create a problem for holiday travel plans if it leads to an increase in cases.”
There was a total of 18 social gatherings this past week in the university area to which the Campus Area Response Team was deployed, up by six from last week. Seven of these 18 incidents were gatherings of 100 or more individuals — likely Halloween parties.
Carmona said that these off-campus gatherings are the primary cause of COVID-19 transmission in the community.
“We have no problems with classroom transmissibility," Carmona said. "It has been very, very well-controlled, but off-campus is our big risk.”
The rate of COVID-19 transmission — Rt measure — has increased significantly compared to previous weeks. The Rt for Pima county is up to 1.71 from 0.99 last week and the Rt for zip code 85719 is up to 1.25 from 0.68 last week.
The Daily Wildcat asked the task force what measures are being taken to discourage large social gatherings that aren’t parties, such as at the bars and restaurants on University Boulevard.
“We've talked to Dr. [Theresa] Cullen and Mr. [Chuck] Huckleberry about going to proprietors and giving them warnings,” Robbins said, “that if they're not following the rules and properly having individuals distance then, you know, their food license could be taken away.”
Carmona supplemented Robbins’ response by mentioning the COVID-19 ambassador teams.
“We have gone the educational route first,” Carmona said. "As you know, our ambassador teams have gone to most of those businesses and reviewed with them … they're advocates for what we talk about and they have gone along University and around the surrounding community. They've gone to the residences off-campus, speaking with management to say, ‘We'll provide science for you, we'll help you, we'll educate you. When you see students aggregating like this for a party let us know.’”
The task force will meet again next Monday morning, Nov. 9.
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