On a week-by-week basis in Pima County, the number of positive COVID tests peaked the week ending July 4 with 2,453 cases, according to a Sept. 29 report from the Pima County Health Department. With the return of UA students, local numbers ticked upward in September but have began to decline again. For the week ending Sept. 5, a total of 859 cases were reported; for the week ending Sept. 12, 1,102 cases were reported; for the week ending Sept. 19, 1,203 cases were reported; and for the week ending Sept. 26, 470 cases were reported. (Recent weeks are subject to revision.)
Deaths in Pima County are down from a peak of 55 in the week ending July 4 to 13 in the week ending Aug. 22, 10 in the week ending Aug. 29, zero in the week ending Sept. 5, two in the week ending Sept. 12 and two in the week ending Sept. 19. (Recent weeks are subject to revision.)
Hospitalization peaked the week ending July 18 with 234 COVID patients admitted to Pima County hospitals. In the week ending Aug. 29, 37 COVID patients were admitted to Pima County hospitals; in the week ending Sept. 5, 25 patients were admitted to Pima County hospitals; in the week ending Sept. 12, 19 patients were admitted; in the week ending Sept. 19, 14 patients were admitted; and in the week ending Sept. 26, five people were admitted. (Recent weeks are subject to revision.)
Campus cases in decline but UA officials stress need to stay vigilant
This week, the University of Arizona will remain in phase one of their staged plan for reopening but anticipates moving into phase two of the plan next week, UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins said in a news conference yesterday.
Phase one allows students to attend essential in-person classes only, but the university plans to add in-person instruction for classes of 30 or fewer students the week of Oct. 12.
According to Robbins, about 2,500 additional students will have the option to attend in-person classes, and the new opportunity only applies to those who signed up for in-person classes during the registration period at the beginning of the school year.
Phase 2 was originally set to begin on Aug. 31, but the high numbers of positive coronavirus cases delayed the step toward having more in-person classes on campus.
Since Aug. 24, about 6,200 UA students have attended essential in-person courses.
Robbins said the university has no recorded cases of COVID-19 transmission within a classroom or laboratory setting, but they will only move into phase two if public health metrics continue a positive trend.
“This strategic reintroduction of more students to a university campus is a part of layered mitigation,” Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said at the press conference. “If the numbers go up, we will not support more introduction of students on campus. Our hope is in this next 7-10 days, we will see those numbers stabilize.”
Over the 10-day window from Sept. 23-Oct. 2, the university reported 181 positive coronavirus tests for a positivity rate of 2.3%. This is an improvement from the previous 10-day period, which saw a COVID-19 positivity rate of 7.9%.
As of Friday evening, the university had 68 dorm students in isolation housing and 450 beds available.
Robbins partly credits the decrease in cases to the university’s voluntary 14-day self-quarantine program in which students were asked to stay home and avoid unnecessary trips, which ended Sept. 29. However, he warns the quarantine period may be restored if the number of coronavirus cases rises.
“If noncompliance remains a significant issue or if we see an increase in cases, it may need to be reinstated and we’re not going to be able to progress to this stage two that we’re thinking about doing next week,” Robbins said.
Over the past week, the university’s CART team, which looks for incidents of noncompliance to COVID-19 precautions, responded to 14 incidents, including a party with over 100 attendees. This team issued three university-related red tags, five citations and five code-of-conduct referrals.
Robbins said he was also aware of a party with 50 people at an apartment on Park Avenue.
“This just is irresponsible and reckless, and we’ve got to stop this,” Robbins said. “This is where the spread of this virus is occurring.”
Although the number of citations issued is down from last week, Robbins said “we’re still not where we need to be.”
“It’s important to note that everything we do has an impact far beyond the individual. We are in this as a collective,” Cullen said.
On Sept. 25, the university began randomly testing dorm students. Beginning Oct. 5, randomly selected employees will undergo coronavirus testing and starting Oct. 12, the university will randomly test off-campus students.
According to Robbins, the university has the capacity to administer 10,000 COVID-19 tests a week, and the ultimate goal is to “test everybody every day.”
“We can’t be complacent. The numbers are still far too high, we still have too much disease in the community,” Reentry Task Force Director Dr. Richard Carmona said. “We’re heading in the right direction, now we have to work even harder to make sure we stay there.”
UA football coach tests positive for coronavirus
University of Arizona head football coach Kevin Sumlin is in self-isolation after testing positive for coronavirus, according to university officials.
The announcement comes days after UA announced the team’s delayed 2020 Pac-12 football schedule on Saturday, Oct. 3. The Wildcats plan to start pre-season practice on Friday, Oct. 9.
“My positive test result, while a shock, is a stark reminder of how we must all remain vigilant in our focus on handwashing, physical distancing and face coverings,” Sumlin said in a statement released by UA. “I am feeling well and will be engaged in our ramp-up activities on a virtual basis until I complete the isolation protocol.”
The university has begun contact tracing protocols and has determined “the test result is not related to any team activities and no close contacts were identified within the football program”, according to the school’s press release.
“I look forward to being back on field in time to begin preparing for the season,” Sumlin said in the release.
The Wildcats are scheduled to play their season opener against the University of Utah Utes on Nov. 7.
Trump leaves hospital
After announcing that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus, President Donald Trump spent the weekend at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center but was released yesterday.
With just four weeks until the Nov. 3 election, Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis has forced him off the campaign trail, including the cancelation of a planned trip to Tucson yesterday.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden plans to be in Arizona, where he has been leading in polls, later this week.
Get tested: Pima County has several testing centers, UA offering antibody testing
Pima County has three free testing centers with easy-to-schedule appointments—often with same-day availability—with results in 24 to 72 hours.
You’ll have a nasal swab test at the Kino Event Center, 2805 E. Ajo Way, and the Udall Center, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road. The center at the northside Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center, 1660 W. Ruthrauff Road, involves a saliva test designed by ASU.
Schedule an appointment at pima.gov/covid19testing.
The centers are also tied into Pima County’s developing contact tracing operation, which aims to be able to identify potential clusters and warn people if they have been in contact with someone who is COVID-positive.
The University of Arizona’s antibody testing has been opened to all Arizonans as the state attempts to get a handle on how many people have been exposed to COVID-19 but were asymptomatic or otherwise did not get a test while they were ill.
To sign up for testing, visit https://covid19antibodytesting.arizona.edu/home.
—with additional reporting from Nicole Ludden, Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner and Mike Truelsen