UArizona returns in person, requires surgical-grade masks or higher

male student sitting at an outdoor table wearing a mask

Chris Richards/University of Arizona

University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins, in a virtual briefing Monday, shared details of the university's updated guidance for returning for in-person classes in spring 2022. He discussed the university's updated face coverings policy, which requires people to wear surgical or higher-grade masks in all campus indoor spaces.

The change to the policy was announced last week in response to the highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19. Cloth masks will no longer meet the campus face coverings requirement, although they may be worn as a top layer over a surgical mask.

Free surgical masks will be available at the entrances of classrooms and campus buildings, and employees can also request them from their building managers, Robbins said. The amended face coverings policy is one of a number of measures the university has taken to help ensure campus safety ahead of the start of the spring semester on Wednesday.

"I know there is concern regarding the spread of the omicron variant," Robbins said. "Certainly, Dr. (Richard) Carmona (Distinguished Laureate Professor of Public Health and 17th U.S. surgeon general) and I share this concern, and we want to ensure that the university is doing all it can to safeguard public health and to minimize the impact of this latest wave on our university community, the health care system at large, health care providers on the front line of this pandemic and our larger society."

In addition to the face coverings policy:

  • There are 8,000 MERV-13 filters installed across campus to help reduce the presence of viral particles indoors.
  • Regular testing is highly encouraged for students and employees, who can get a free rapid antigen or saline gargle PCR test by appointment at the former Cactus Grill at the Student Union Memorial Center. TakeAway Testing kits also are available for pickup at several campus locations. Dorm residents are required to test negative within 48 hours of returning to campus, and isolation dorms are available for those who get a positive result. Robbins strongly encouraged all students, faculty and staff to get tested before returning to campus.
  • Campus Health continues to offer vaccinations by appointment for students, employees and designated campus colleagues. In addition, a walk-in public vaccination clinic will be held at the university's Cole and Jeannie Davis Sports Center on Monday and Wednesday, in partnership with the Pima County Health Department. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. this Monday and Wednesday, and it is open to all community members 5 and older. Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots will be available.

Robbins said the university will continue to monitor COVID-19 spread on campus and in the community and will adjust plans if needed.

He also said immune compromised people or those with significant health risks who aren't comfortable coming to campus should work with supervisors or the Disability Resource Center on accommodations.

"Our objective as an institution remains the same: to provide a high-quality educational experience for our students while minimizing the risk posed by the COVID-19 pandemic," Robbins said. "These measures – vaccination, masking, isolation and treatment of positive individuals – all contribute to this goal."