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University status update: Continued rise in COVID-19 cases, Omicron variant raises concern

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Sean Meixner | The Daily Wildcat Screenshot taken on Monday, Nov. 15, of the virtual university status update team, with special guest Dean of Students Kendall Washington-White. The team discussed the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

The University of Arizona’s virtual status update team met on Monday, Nov. 29, to discuss the COVID-19 health situation at the University of Arizona and in Pima County, as well as to address concerns regarding vaccination and the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.

UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins opened the meeting by addressing the rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations around the nation and in Arizona.

“The detection and identification of the omicron variant is also troubling,” Robbins said. “I’m sure most of you have read and heard about this new variant; and this will continue to occur as long as we are not able to get the entire globe vaccinated.”

Robbins once again encouraged everyone to cover their faces in public, keep social distancing, wash their hands and get vaccinated. He stressed that vaccinations are available through Campus Health and that vaccination documents can be uploaded in three ways: the UA’s HIPAA-compliant system, the state immunization information system if the vaccination was received in Arizona or in-person at the Student Union Memorial Center in the Tucson Room during their open hours.

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Dr. Richard Carmona, 17th Surgeon General of the United States and distinguished professor at the UA then took the floor to discuss COVID-19 statistics in Pima County and at the university. During the last 10-day period of testing from Nov. 15-24, the UA has had 146 positive cases of COVID-19 out of 7,301 tests (2%).

The rate of transmission as of Nov. 15 was 1.13 for the UA and 1.19 in Pima County. The previous Rt values from Oct. 28 were as follows: 1.56 for the UA and 1.29 for Pima County.

Carmona once again stressed the importance of following public health safety measures, stating that around 40% of the population of the state of Arizona is not vaccinated.

“By placing yourself at risk, you place your family, your friends, your workers at risk, because you can be carrying that virus and spreading it,” Carmona said.

He also encouraged listeners to call the COVID Ambassador Team Hotline with any questions about COVID-19 and the vaccine, which he had stressed is safe and effective.

Carmona then introduced Kendal Washington White, vice provost for Campus Life and dean of students at the UA, who emphasized wellness and compassion as the semester closes.

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“It’s great that we had an opportunity to have some time off, away from classes and being on campus, so I hope everyone had a good time during the break,” Washington White said. “We are in the home stretch for our students, faculty and staff, specifically for our students. We’re at the end of our semester pretty much, and one of the things we want to make sure that our students in particular, but all of us on campus, [is] that we need to take care of ourselves.”

The dean encouraged students to get good sleep and to eat healthy as finals approach, as well as to take care of their mental health, emphasizing the availability of Campus Health’s Counseling and Psych Services for students. She stressed that everyone show compassion to each other as the semester wraps up.


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