University to Continue Holding Only 'Essential Courses' in Person Through Oct. 2

students wear masks on campus

Students wear face coverings while on campus during the fall 2020 semester.

Chris Richards/University Communications

The University of Arizona will continue to hold in-person classes only for "essential courses" at least through Friday, Oct. 2, UArizona President Robert C. Robbins said Monday in the university's weekly briefing on the campus's reentry.

About 5,000 students are attending essential courses, such as labs and performing arts courses.

"This is out of an abundance of caution. We obviously, over the last couple of weeks, saw a great spike in cases," Robbins said, but he added that cases have gone down in the last few days.

On Friday, 79 of the 1,299 tests conducted returned positive results, a rate of 6.1% – a drop from the 8.8% positivity rate a week earlier. Those tests included students living on and off campus, as well as university employees. Campus testing results are updated regularly on the university's COVID-19 website.

The university has the capacity to provide 1,600 antigen tests per day, and 1,700 polymerase chain reaction tests per week to students living on and off campus, as well as employees. Both tests use nasal swabs to detect an active COVID-19 infection.

No new students were admitted to isolation housing over the weekend, Robbins said, and 100 students were able to leave isolation housing. That left 324 students in isolation on campus and 75 isolating off campus. The university will also expand its on-campus isolation capacity to 600 after preparing more rooms over the weekend.

Monday's briefing also included Brendan Duffy, a senior studying political science and communications and a member of the COVID-19 Ambassador Team. The team consists of about 30 student employees who promote good health and safety practices to other students, such as encouraging them to wear masks.

"The experience has really been extremely positive both by students and other members of the Tucson community," Duffy said.

University still working closely with city, county

The university also continues to work in partnership with the city, county and the community around campus to slow the spread of COVID-19, Robbins said. The county and the university on Sept. 14 recommended that students living on or near campus shelter in place for 14 days, until Sept. 29, to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

"We are hearing from our community partners that most students are adhering to this guidance" of the shelter-in-place recommendation, Robbins said.

The university's Community Area Response Team, a partnership between university and Tucson police departments, also responded to 17 properties on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The team issued 10 red tags, 19 citations and initiated 25 code of conduct violations with the Dean of Students Office.

"We've gone from begging, encouraging, now moving into the action phase of where your choices will have consequences," Robbins said, "and there will be individuals who will be asked to leave the university."

More stringent measures from the county could come after the shelter-in-place recommendation is scheduled to end, Robbins said, depending on what testing results show. If cases go up, the county could seek to legally quarantine buildings such as fraternity and sorority houses and high-rise apartment buildings near campus where many students live.

"This is a critical period," Robbins said, and reminded viewers, as he has done at each weekly briefing, to wash their hands, cover their faces and physically distance. He added that all health and safety guidelines have been put in place to first and foremost serve students – to help them earn the credits needed to get their degrees, graduate and start their careers.

"We can't control the virus on our own," he said. "Please do your part."


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