TUCSON, Ariz. — The University of Arizona will remain in phase two of its reentry plan next week but will begin allowing larger in-person classes to meet on campus.
Last week, the university began allowing in-person instruction for classes of 30 or fewer that were designated as in-person courses at the start of the fall semester. Prior to that, most classes were held in an online format, regardless of how they were designated at the time of registration; only “essential courses,” such as research labs and performing arts classes, took place in person.
Beginning Oct. 26, classes of 50 or fewer that were designated at the time of registration as in-person courses or flex in-person courses, with a mix of online and in-person instruction, will have the option to begin meeting face to face, University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins, MD, said today during his virtual weekly update on the university’s reentry progress.
Positive Tests Remain Low
Dr. Robbins said he continues to see encouraging signs that efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 on and around campus have been effective.
Of the 6,867 COVID-19 tests administered on campus between Oct. 8 and Oct. 17, there were 44 positive results, for a positivity rate of 0.6%. Testing results are updated regularly on the university’s COVID-19 dashboard.
There are currently no students in campus isolation dorms, and the most recent day of wastewater testing, which has been conducted in dorms and other campus building to detect the presence of the virus, had no positive results, Dr. Robbins said.
“This is contributing to an encouraging turn over the past several weeks for Pima County, including the 85719 ZIP code, which contains the university,” Dr. Robbins said. “The Rt – the R naught of transmissibility of COVID-19 – number for this ZIP code was 0.35 on Oct. 15 – lower than many surrounding areas of Pima County.”
The Rt number refers to the average number of people who become infected by a single person with the virus.
Testing Blitz Planned Before Holidays
With the holidays on the horizon and just five weeks left until the end of the semester, Dr. Robbins said the goal is to keep cases down.
In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, the university will do a testing blitz, with registration beginning Nov. 6 and testing beginning on Nov. 9. To manage the anticipated volume, tests will be conducted by appointment only, rather than on a walk-in basis as they are now.
The university offers three types of tests: nasal swab antigen and PCR tests to detect active infections and blood-draw antibody tests, which can show whether or not a person has been previously infected.
In addition, students will be asked to fill out a survey detailing their travel plans before the Thanksgiving break. Dr. Robbins said students are strongly encouraged to finish the semester remotely if they travel out of the Tucson area for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Our primary goal is to minimize the impact of student travel on community spread of COVID-19,” he said.
Dr. Robbins also emphasized the importance of getting a flu shot. Students can visit the Campus Health website for more information on flu shot clinics. Employees can find information on the Life & Work Connections website, under the Events & Workshops tab.
No Spring Break in 2021
The university will not have a traditional spring break next semester, said Provost Liesl Folks, PhD, who joined the briefing with Dr. Robbins and Reentry Task Force Director Richard Carmona, MD, MPH, 17th. U.S. surgeon general and a distinguished professor in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.
The five spring break days will instead be spread out throughout the semester as “reading days” off for students. The start and end date of the semester will not change, with the semester starting Jan. 13 and ending May 5.
“The CDC is unambiguous about the fact that travel is one of the core ways that we spread the virus around the country, and we need to do our part as a community, as Wildcats, to reduce travel,” Dr. Folks said. “And, so, by taking spring break and instead taking those days and using them as reading days through the semester, it is a way for us to reduce the incentives to travel for our faculty, for our staff and our students – for our whole Wildcat community – and in doing so, make our community that much safer.”
Click here to view video from the Oct. 19, 2020, Campus Reentry Briefing on YouTube.
The UArizona Health Sciences COVID-19 Research webpage can be found here.
For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university’s COVID-19 webpage.
For UANews coverage of COVID-19, visit https://news.arizona.edu/news/covid19.
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A version of this article appeared originally on the UANews website.
NOTE: Images and other assets for this article available here – https://arizona.box.com/v/CampusReentry101920.
About the UArizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. UArizona Health Sciences includes the Colleges of Medicine (Tucson and Phoenix), Nursing, Pharmacy, and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona, the greater Southwest and around the world to provide next-generation education, research and outreach. A major economic engine, Health Sciences employs nearly 5,000 people, has approximately 4,000 students and 900 faculty members, and garners $200 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: uahs.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).
About the University of Arizona
The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university ranked in the top 20 in 2018 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $687 million in annual research expenditures. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 65 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually. For more information: arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).