The University of Arizona’s COVID-19 virtual university status update team met on Monday for the eighth briefing of the spring semester. In a break from its usual format, it began by discussing the tragic death of Forrest Keys over the weekend, followed by an overview of COVID-19 data and details on the transition to Phase 2 of reentry.
“We’re all deeply saddened over the tragic loss of one of our students, Forrest Keys, on Saturday night,” said UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins. “[Keys] was a gifted young man. He was a sophomore majoring in communication and he was a brand-new member of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity.”
Robbins said that the Dean of Students is in touch with the family and added that all members of the community should seek support from one another and from university resources, including counseling and psychological services.
UA Police Department Chief Brian Seastone told viewers that law enforcement is actively investigating the incident, and there is no current indication that the university community is in danger at this time.
“I want to reiterate that we're working very closely with the Tucson Police Department on this,” Seastone said. “We have an excellent team of detectives here at the UA, but in these types of incidents we utilize all of our resources and Tucson Police has been just amazing in their support and response to us. We're following up on every lead possible and we encourage people that have any information to please call 88-CRIME and report that to either 88-CRIME, to the Tucson Police Department or to the UAPD. We will work tirelessly to help identify those responsible for this tragedy.”
Seastone also reassured the community that the UAPD will increase its patrol around campus especially at night since the UA vaccination point of distribution has extended its hours of operation to 10 p.m. He added that Safe Ride is also available to use for those who feel uncomfortable walking on campus alone.
When asked if there were any cameras in the parking garage where the shooting occurred, Seastone replied that there was footage of the incident but said that he can’t disclose the exact locations of the cameras. He added that based on the information currently available, UAPD is aware of a verbal altercation prior to the incident between Keys and the shooter, who was in a red Cadillac, and that there is nothing to indicate this attack was racially motivated.
Task force Director Dr. Richard Carmona began the update on reentry by reminding viewers that the university will begin Phase 2 this week. Classes of 50 or fewer students previously designated as in-person or flex in-person may begin in-person instruction this week.
Starting this week, students living in residence halls may have guests in common areas and are permitted to use amenities such as pianos and game tables in these spaces. Face covering and social distancing policies will remain in place.
From Feb. 15 to Feb. 20, the UA administered 12,680 COVID-19 tests, which resulted in 18 positives – a positivity rate of 0.14%.
“That is extraordinary,” Carmona said, “and also speaks to the extraordinary effort that we have undertaken under the guidance of President Robbins and Provost [Liesl] Folks to ensure that the best public health practices are exhibited every single day on this campus.”
The university’s vaccination POD has expanded its operating hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., all seven days of the week. To register for a vaccine, visit podvaccine.azdhs.gov or call 602-542-1000.
Robbins added that although vaccines are currently in short supply, he is confident that will change in the near future.
“I'm confident in the next week or so that we're going to see about a 20% increase in the allocation coming to the state because there's going to be increased productivity,” Robbins said. “My hope is that Johnson & Johnson [vaccines] will get into the pipeline. I don't know how many more vaccines will be available – my hope is maybe even another 10% or 15%. I ask everyone to be patient. The state system for registration is working well, the POD is working well, everybody's pulling together, but we simply don't have enough supply right now.”
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