The University of Arizona urged students to stay safe amid their return to campus this semester along with the spread of COVID-19 and monkeypox in Pima County.
The school's virtual status update team met Monday, Aug. 15, to address the impact the start of school will have on COVID-19 and monkeypox numbers.
“The pandemic is not over, I want to emphasize that, not even close to being over,” said UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins at the opening of the meeting, a message he frequently expressed during last semester's briefings.
“As the semester begins, we have the confluence of COVID-19, flu season beginning and the new threat of monkeypox, which has been characterized as a national emergency,” Robbins said.
He stressed the importance of vaccination against COVID-19 and masking to combat the spread of the virus.
“If you have not received a vaccine, I implore you, I beg you to make an appointment today,” Robbins said.
Robbins also urged the UA community to get their flu shots in anticipation of flu season and encouraged students and staff to take a COVID-19 test before returning to campus.
While masking are to remain recommended but not required, he called for respect for those who continue to mask on campus.
“You simply don’t know what other people are suffering through,” Robbins said.
Addressing the spread of monkeypox, Robbins said, “Campus Health has tests for monkeypox available.”
Currently, there are 170 monkeypox cases in Arizona, with 14 in Pima County, according to the VUSU team's data presentation.
Both Robbins and Dr. Richard Carmona, the 17th Surgeon General of the U.S. and distinguished laureate professor at the UA, noted that, although many reports and statistics have characterized the monkeypox virus as a sexually transmitted disease, the virus can be contracted through other forms of physical contact by people of all ages and demographics.
“Transmission of monkeypox is possible through everyday activities such as sharing utensils, linens and being in close proximity to respiratory droplets,” Robbins said. “Transmission through contaminated surfaces is also possible, making hygiene even more important.
Robbins followed this statement with an emphasis that monkeypox does not often lead to hospitalization or death.
Carmona took the floor to discuss COVID-19 case numbers and other data.
He praised the UA’s incident command system and re-emphasized the importance of vaccination, referring to it as one of the greatest scientific advancements.
The most recent day of COVID-19 testing yielded a positivity rate of 2%, with four out of 204 cases registering as positive. The past 10 days of testing have yielded a positivity rate of 5.8%, with 73 out of 1,252 tests registering as positive. Carmona encouraged those at increased risk to continue to mask.
With the return to campus, Carmona emphasized that the same precautions used to combat flu and COVID-19 can be used to prevent monkeypox transmission, including hand washing, masking and extra caution.
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