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University status update: COVID-19 booster shots coming to the UA

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Screenshot of the virtual university status update team, which met Monday, Sept. 27, to discuss the availability of COVID-19 booster shots and trends in COVID-19 data.

The University of Arizona’s virtual university status update team met on Monday, Sept. 27, to discuss COVID-19 public health and safety measures, case numbers and announce that COVID-19 booster shots will be coming to the university.

UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins opened the meeting by announcing that COVID-19 cases detected through campus testing have been decreasing since the previous VUSU meeting, which took place on Sept. 13. The most recent day of testing (Friday, Sept. 24) resulted in only 13 positive cases out of 966 tests, a positivity rate of 1.3%.

This data included results from the new takeaway testing, which currently accounts for just over 10% of tests on campus.

“This is an encouraging first sign that the program is increasing accessibility to [tests] for the campus community,” Robbins said.

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Robbins went on to emphasize that the lower case numbers on campus are a reminder that masking, social distancing and regular hand washing work to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“This is particularly important as we begin to see the arrival of winter visitors to Tucson and southern Arizona … as we’re beginning to move toward the holiday season,” Robbins said.

The president also stated that the university is excited to welcome parents and family members to campus for the upcoming Family Weekend, which begins Friday, Oct. 8.

Robbins then announced the UA’s Homecoming, which will begin on Oct. 31. He emphasized that attendants at these events should wear masks and follow public health procedures.

Robbins turned the meeting over to Dr. Richard Carmona, 17th Surgeon General of the United States and a distinguished professor at the UA, to share details on public health data at the UA and in Pima County.

Carmona began by going over case numbers and stating that things are getting better in Arizona, with a little over half of the country inoculated against COVID-19 and a majority of senior citizens being vaccinated in the state.

Carmona once again stressed the importance of vaccination.

“Everyone should be getting vaccinated, everybody. Unless you have some medical reason not to, or some personal reason, which we respect, get vaccinated,” Carmona said.

The rate of transmission as of Sept. 16 was 1.37% for the UA and 0.99% for Pima County. At the time of the last status update on Sept. 14, the UA was at 1.54% and Pima County was at 1.01%.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but we can’t be complacent. We have to keep moving forward,” Carmona said.

Carmona went on to cover vaccination rates, with a total of 65.7% of Pima County having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Overall in the state, we’re approaching 60%. That’s good, but on the other side of that you have 40% of people who are not fully vaccinated, and that’s where our vulnerability is,” Carmona said. “So we need to make sure that everybody, everybody gets vaccinated and for some reason if you can’t, or choose not to, there is testing available every place.”

Carmona then reviewed information on the UA’s new Cats TakeAway Testing program, which does not require an appointment. There are nine locations around campus where students can pick up these tests.

Carmona and Robbins both emphasized that they are cautiously optimistic.

“Even if we’re all vaccinated, testing continues to be something that we’ll need to do for the foreseeable future,” Robbins said.

Robbins added that testing is opening up at UA campuses throughout the state, including campuses in Phoenix and Sierra Vista.

“At least once a week, just get tested to see where you are,” Robbins said. “Even if you’re asymptomatic, you don’t want to be the person spreading this Delta variant.”

The briefing was followed by a question and answer portion. During the Q&A period, the VUSU team emphasized the importance of staying safe during upcoming campus events, such as Homecoming. Robbins also stated that COVID-19 testing data on campus is as accurate as it can be, with the UA currently forbidden to mandate testing for the entire campus.

Robbins also stated that masks shall remain mandated across campus, even after key legislation takes effect at the end of the month.

Also during the Q&A portion, it was announced that COVID-19 booster shots will become available on the UA campus come Oct. 11.

Carmona stated that as immunity may begin to drop around six to eight months after receiving the vaccine for COVID-19, individuals should talk to their health care officials and primary care doctors about whether or not they should get a booster. He encouraged individuals in at-risk groups to get a booster shot once they are available.


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (10/22)
742 5 0.7%
Total (8/2)
42,506 639 1.5%
Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated October 22, 2021