As Fall Semester Nears, UArizona Urges Vaccinations and Masks as Part of 'Layered Approach' to COVID-19 Mitigation

a young woman receives a vaccine

A vaccination is given on campus during the spring 2021 semester.

Chris Richards/University of Arizona

The University of Arizona is two weeks away from welcoming students back to campus for an in-person fall semester. With the delta variant of COVID-19 causing renewed concern, President Robert C. Robbins said the university is strongly encouraging vaccinations and face coverings in indoor spaces for everyone on campus.

"As we prepare for the start of classes, we recognize the challenges presented to all of us by the delta variant, which is more contagious than the lineages of SARS-COV-2 that we dealt with last academic year and which is now the dominant strain in the United States," Robbins said Monday during a virtual briefing on the university's fall semester planning. "This is a very critical moment. I know many of us relaxed over the summer, and we had begun to think that the pandemic was well behind us." 

He went on to say that the university, working within the framework of state law, will take a layered approach to COVID-19 mitigation by strongly encouraging vaccinations and masks in indoor spaces, and by continuing to offer free COVID-19 testing to university students and employees. Masks and cleaning supplies will be available in every classroom, and an isolation dorm with at least 150 beds will be available for students who live on campus and test positive for COVID-19. In addition, in an effort to improve ventilation in campus buildings, the university's Facilities Management team has installed 8,000 MERV-13 air filters in classes and office spaces throughout campus. The filters are efficient in removing airborne particles of the size that usually transport the COVID-19 virus.

"We need to think of masking, vaccines and other measures as complementary parts of the solution, not separate approaches," Robbins said. "Layering our strategies to minimize the risk to ourselves and others works best."

Although state law prohibits the university from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine, vaccinations are of critical importance and are our "best hope" against the virus, Robbins said.   

"The vast majority of those who require hospitalization and are at risk of dying are those who are unvaccinated," he said. "Vaccination also decreases the risk of infecting others, even following a breakthrough infection. It does not reduce the risk to zero, but it does reduce it significantly."

"This delta variant has been a game changer," Robbins added. "We're concerned about this, and there are other variants coming after delta, so the best way to counteract this is to get people vaccinated." 

Members of the campus community can get vaccinated at Campus Health.

Robbins also said that while testing will be voluntary, he hopes all members of the campus community, regardless of vaccination status, will get tested weekly and that they will continue to wear masks when around other people.

"I expect everybody (to) get vaccinated, keep your face covered and frequently test," he said.

Information on testing and the latest on the university's COVID-19 response are available on the university's COVID-19 website