UArizona to Launch COVID-19 'TakeAway' Tests

young woman with head tilted back, gargling

A UArizona student takes a saline gargle PCR test during the spring 2021 semester.

Chris Richards/University of Arizona

The University of Arizona will launch a Cats TakeAway Testing program this week that will allow students, employees and designated campus colleagues to pick up a COVID-19 test kit on the go.

The saline gargle PCR test, which involves swishing and gargling a saline solution before spitting it into a tube, can be completed anywhere and then returned to a designated campus location for analysis. No appointment is required.

The tests will be offered in addition to the university's existing in-person testing options.

Initial pickup and drop-off locations planned for the Cats TakeAway Tests include the Health Sciences Library, the Administration Building, Facilities Management, the Global Center, McClelland Hall, the Student Recreation Center, the Student Union Memorial Center and the Student Success District. Those with symptoms can get the test at Campus Health. Additional locations are in the works and will be announced soon, University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins said during a virtual briefing on Monday. 

"What we're looking for, of course, are those asymptomatic people who have no idea that they're infected and are infecting others," he said.

Robbins said the university is in a much better position with regard to COVID-19 cases than it was last year at this time.

On Sept. 14 last year – the start of the fourth week of the fall 2020 semester – the university saw its peak number of positive COVID-19 tests, with 261 positives and a positivity rate of 15.4%. Two days later, on Sept. 16, the university saw 245 positive tests and a record positivity rate of 17.5%.

Monday marks the start this semester's fourth week, and on Friday, the university recorded 33 positive COVID-19 tests – a positivity rate of just 1.7%.

"We must remain diligent, but this change from last year is a good reason for optimism," Robbins said. "Continued testing is vital, and our program has been designed with an emphasis on access so that testing is as easy and available as possible. We continue to adapt this program to best serve the campus community, and we are excited for TakeAway Testing to begin later this week."

While the university does not require testing, Robbins has encouraged all members of the campus community to get tested weekly, regardless of vaccination status.

University's Work in Afghanistan Continues

Robbins on Monday also gave an update on efforts by university faculty and staff to assist colleagues and friends in Afghanistan.

As of last week, Julie Ellison-Speight, associate director of the university's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and Julia Smith, who leads the university's Federal Relations office in Washington, D.C., had helped ensure that 10 Afghan nationals were able to evacuate. Their work continues for at least 30 more people, Robbins said.