The University of Arizona’s virtual status update team met on Monday, Jan. 10, to discuss the COVID-19 campus reentry plan for the spring 2022 semester, the public health situation in Pima County and address concerns regarding the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins began the meeting by wishing the UA community a happy new year before addressing campus reentry. The UA will begin in-person classes this Wednesday, Jan 12.
“I know there is concern regarding the spread of the Omicron variant,” Robbins said. “Certainly Dr. [Richard] Carmona and I share this concern and we want to ensure that the university is doing all it can to safeguard public health and to minimize the impact of this latest wave on our university community, the healthcare system at large, healthcare providers on the front line of this pandemic and our larger society."
Robbins proceeded to discuss the health and safety measures that will be in effect on campus this semester, including mandatory masking in many indoor spaces on campus. This semester, students and staff will be required to wear surgical masks in designated spaces. This is in contrast to the fall 2021 semester when cloth masks were permitted.
Robbins also emphasized the continued importance of testing, reminding the UA community of the availability of TakeAway saline gargle testing, as well as scheduled on-site testing, which is located in the Student Union Memorial Center in the space formerly occupied by the Cactus Grill.
As in previous status updates, Robbins once again emphasized the importance of widespread vaccination against COVID-19 in order to combat the spread of the pandemic.
“We know that the vaccines, which remain available through campus health, minimize the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death. We will continue on the mantra that we need to get everyone in the world vaccinated,” Robbins said.
Robbins also announced the availability of walk-in vaccination appointments available on Jan. 10 and 12. The walk-in clinic is located at the Davis Sports Center located on the UA campus and has Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines available.
For dorm move-in this semester, a negative COVID-19 test will be needed. Both rapid antigen and PCR tests will be accepted.
Robbins then handed the floor over to Carmona, 17th Surgeon General of the United States and distinguished professor at the UA. Carmona began by thanking students, faculty and staff for their efforts in combating the spread of the pandemic in the past two years.
Carmona stressed the availability of free testing and vaccinations through the UA and their importance in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
The most recent day of testing (Jan. 7) had 127 positive tests out of 1,395 tests submitted, a positivity rate of 9.1%. There have been a total of 745 positive tests since Dec. 29, 2021, out of 6,090 tests submitted, a positivity rate of 12.2%
Carmona also touched on the vaccination rates in Pima County, with 75.9% of total Pima County residents being vaccinated.
Robbins stressed that those with health risks that would result in a potentially severe or deadly case of COVID-19 should not come to campus and should contact the Disability Resource Center and their instructors in order to get accommodations.
Holly Jensen, vice president of communications at the UA, encouraged students to get tested for COVID-19 in their hometowns if possible in order to minimize the spread. She also encouraged students to schedule their testing appointments in advance through the UA if testing is not available in their area.
The briefing was followed by a Q&A portion in which members of the press asked questions to Robbins and Carmona.
During the Q&A, Robbins re-emphasized that he can not mandate vaccination or testing due to current Arizona law, in response to demands made by the United Campus Workers of Arizona, the faculty and staff union for Arizona universities.
The UA currently has 300-600 isolation beds, the majority of which are currently occupied by individuals infected with COVID-19.
The next status update is scheduled for Jan. 24, at 9 a.m. MST, although a briefing will be scheduled over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend if necessary.
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