UArizona prepares for start of classes with resources on COVID, flu and monkeypox

aerial view of people walking on campus

University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins discussed on Monday how the university is preparing for the convergence of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with flu season and the new threat of monkeypox.

As students prepare to return to campus for the start of the fall semester on Aug. 22, Robbins stressed the importance of vaccines, testing, and continued compassion and vigilance.

"The pandemic is not over … though our situation is much improved over the start of last academic year," Robbins said during a virtual briefing on fall semester preparations. "While transmission of COVID-19 remains persistent around the nation, we have successfully navigated the past two years with continued innovation, support and cooperation from students, faculty and staff. We have the tools to continue our success and we know how to use them."

Robbins said students and employees returning to campus are encouraged to take a COVID-19 test through the university's Cats TakeAway Testing program. Test kits are available at several locations across main campus and at other sites. Pre-registration is required before picking up a test.

Robbins also urged university students and employees who haven't already been vaccinated against COVID-19 to schedule an appointment through Campus Health. He encouraged those eligible to get a booster.

He stressed the importance of getting a flu shot as well. Information on flu shots is available on the Campus Health website.

"This is a proven vaccination and an important tool in our public health response to the annual flu season," he said.

Face coverings are optional on campus, and masks are available in all university buildings and classrooms.

"Given the varying levels of personal risk from COVID-19, I encourage members of the university community to have compassion for one another and be respectful of each other's personal choice about mask usage," Robbins said.

Robbins also noted that MERV-13 filters, which are efficient in removing airborne particles of the size that usually transport the COVID-19 virus, remain in all buildings across campus, and HEPA filters and emission monitors are available for classrooms through Facilities Management.

Additional information on the university's response to the pandemic is available on the COVID-19 website, which will be updated to reflect new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robbins said.

Monkeypox tests available

With monkeypox making international headlines, Robbins said the university has received messages of concern from students and their families.

Monkeypox tests are available for students and employees at Campus Health, and Campus Health leaders are working with Pima County to explore treatment and vaccination options, although supplies are limited nationwide, Robbins said. More information on monkeypox is available on the Campus Health website.

While monkeypox can be painful, it rarely leads to hospitalization or death.

"Transmission of monkeypox is possible through everyday activities such as sharing utensils, linens and being in close proximity to respiratory droplets," Robbins said. "Transmission via contaminated surfaces is also possible, making hygiene even more important."

Arizona has had 170 cases on mokeypox, with 14 reported in Pima County, said Dr. Richard Carmona, 17th U.S. surgeon general and a University Distinguished Laureate Professor of Public Health, who joined Robbins during Monday's briefing,

"The good news is the same public health precautions we talk about for flu and we talk about for COVID work for this disease of monkeypox as well," Carmona.

That includes frequent handwashing and limiting contact with people if you feel sick, he said.