UArizona Leaders Stress Vaccination, Testing and Mental Health Care Ahead of Holidays

young woman taking a saline gargle test

The university offers saline gargle PCR tests (pictured above) in addition to nasal-swab antigen tests.

Chris Richards/University of Arizona

With COVID-19 cases again on the rise again nationally and in Arizona, University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins urged members of the campus community to get vaccinated and continue good public health practices including mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing.

"I know that we all want to put this pandemic behind us, but we're definitely not out of the woods yet," he said during a virtual briefing on Monday. "If we do not do the right things, the cost could be enormous."

Robbins also encouraged students and employees to care for their mental health and turn to university resources for support when needed.

Over the past 14 days, COVID-19 cases have increased 11% across the U.S., with a seven-day rolling average of 24 new cases per 100,000 people. In that same time period in Arizona, there has been a 40% increase in new cases, with 49 daily new cases per 100,000 people. While the rate of new cases on campus has remained low, both cases and hospitalization rates have increased in Pima County.

With those numbers in mind, Robbins urged students and employees who are not yet vaccinated to make an appointment with Campus Health, where boosters are also available for those who qualify. He also encouraged students who may be traveling for next week's holiday weekend to get tested beforehand. 

"Whether you're vaccinated or not, I strongly encourage you to continue to test regularly," he said, adding that "testing will be incredibly important as we begin this holiday travel season."

To comply with guidelines for federal contractors, UArizona employees must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 18, unless they have received a religious or disability exemption.

Employees can provide proof of vaccination in one of three ways:

  • Upload vaccination documentation through the university's secure, private online system.
  • If vaccinated in Arizona, verify status through the state immunization information system.
  • Verify documents in person in the Tucson Room of the Student Union Memorial Center, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1-3 p.m.

To date, approximately 75% of employees have provided vaccination documentation, Robbins said.

Mental Health Support Available on Campus

During Monday's briefing, UArizona Vice Provost for Campus Life and Dean of Students Kendal Washington White stressed the importance of mental health care as the pandemic continues and the holidays draw near.

Counseling and Psych Services, or CAPS, at Campus Health has expanded its mental health support services and been an important resource for students since the pandemic began, and the university also has counselors embedded in colleges, cultural centers and the North Rec Center, White said.

"Students can have access to those resources at any time. Students can seek support 24 hours every single day of the week," she said.

CAPS served nearly 3,500 students in the 2021 school year, 54% of which were new visitors. While the most frequently seen issues anxiety, depression and adjustment problems, CAPS has also seen an increase since the start of the pandemic in the number of students seeking help with grief, isolation, decreased motivation and increased anxiety about relearning to socialize, White said. 

"We have significant resources for our students, and what we want from parents and from students and for our faculty and staff is to make sure that we are demonstrating compassion, and make sure that we take the extra step to help students to get the support that they need," she said.

Mental health resources also are available for university employees through Life & Work Connections.

"The pandemic has taken a toll on every single one of us – obviously some more, some less – but everyone's life has been changed significantly," Robbins said. "Please know that the university has resources to help everyone, no matter who you are, that we care intensely about each one of you and we want you to be well. Please reach out if you need help."

White also noted that students who can't go home for the Thanksgiving weekend and may be alone for the holiday can get a free Thanksgiving meal to-go from Arizona Student Unions.