The University of Arizona will allow more students to return to campus this week as metrics tracking the spread of coronavirus remain low, UA President Robert C. Robbins said in a news conference Monday, Oct. 19.
Continuing phase two of its reopening plan, the university will allow classes of 50 or fewer to return the week of Oct. 26, raising last week’s maximum of 30 students.
From Oct. 8-17, UA found 44 positive coronavirus cases after administering 6,867 tests for a positivity rate of 0.6%, the same rate the university reported last week.
“We have five weeks before the break. I’m very proud of the way the university has risen to the challenge so far, but we cannot become complacent,” Robbins said.
With fall break approaching Nov. 26, UA is taking proactive measures to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 as students travel outside the area.
On Nov. 6, the university will begin a “testing blitz” by appointment only. Students who plan to travel over break and have not received a positive coronavirus test over the past 90 days are “strongly encouraged” to get tested.
All main campus students are required to take a coronavirus antigen test and complete a survey with their fall break traveling plans. Those who travel outside the Tucson area over break are encouraged to complete the semester remotely, according to Robbins.
However, UA students won’t get a similar week off in the spring. Instead of spring break, the university will have five separate “reading days” with no classes held.
“It’s a traumatic step to say we’re not going to have spring break next year, but it’s a really important step,” UA Provost Liesl Folks said. “The CDC is unambiguous about the fact that travel is one of the core ways that we spread the virus around the country.”
Reentry Task Force Director Dr. Richard Carmona highlighted the university’s 4.7% coronavirus positivity rating for their total testing window since the beginning of August. He said although the “desired number” is below 5%, the university shouldn’t get too comfortable.
During the past week, the university’s CART team, a collaboration with the UA and Tucson police departments that looks for noncompliance to COVID-19 precautions, responded to 15 incidents.
“We are happy that the intense public health practices we are inspiring others to adopt in our campus, in our community, are actually doing the job, but we got to push even harder now,” Carmona said.