UArizona president 'cautiously optimistic' on declining COVID cases, urges testing before and after spring break

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

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to decline in Arizona and nationwide, University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins said he is "cautiously optimistic for what we will see in the weeks and months to come."

While virus transmission remains significant, the numbers are trending in the right direction, said Distinguished Laureate Professor of Public Health and 17th U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, who joined Robbins for a virtual briefing Monday.

Positivity rates on campus are down significantly, at 2.5% between Feb. 9 and Feb. 18, compared to more than 10% earlier in the semester. The state of Arizona has an average of 34 daily new cases per 100,000 people, making it the state with the 23rd highest rate of COVID-19 infection, Carmona said.

"We're still in the midst of a pandemic, but we're gradually moving away from it," Carmona said. However, it's important not to get complacent, he stressed. 

To sustain the decline in cases and help ward off another surge, Robbins urged members of the campus community to continue taking precautions, including getting vaccinated, testing often, wearing face coverings indoors, washing hands frequently and staying home when sick.

"For the university community, this is especially important as we approach spring break," he said. "For any students or employees planning to travel, please make sure to get tested both before and after your trip, and wear a mask when needed. In addition, as much as you can, be aware of the public health conditions in the locales you visit and take appropriate measures to protect yourself and those around you."

The university's spring break is March 5-13.

Several on-campus testing options remain available for students and employees, including in-person PCR and rapid antigen tests by appointment, as well as Cats TakeAway Tests available for pickup at various campus locations. Vaccinations continue to be available free of charge at Campus Health for students, benefits-eligible employees and designated campus colleagues.