University Prepares to Offer More In-Person Classes

students physically distancing in a theater class

Although most classes started online on Aug. 24, some "essential courses," including labs and performing arts studios like this theater class, met in-person, with students required to physically distance and wear face coverings.

Chris Richards/University Communications

The University of Arizona will begin welcoming more students to in-person classes next week if public health metrics continue to trend in a positive direction, President Robert C. Robbins said during today's briefing on the university's reentry progress.

The majority of classes have been offered in an online format since the fall semester began on Aug. 24, with about 6,200 students attending only "essential courses" – such as labs and fine arts classes – in person.

On Oct. 12, the university hopes to move into phase two of its reentry plan. In phase two, essential courses will continue to be held in person. In addition, in-person instruction will begin for classes of 30 or fewer students that were designated in-person courses at the time of registration.

Courses designated as live online courses or iCourses will continue to be held fully online as designed. Students can check UAccess for information on how their classes will be offered.

"As we discussed last week, the university's measures in place to reduce transmission of coronavirus are working, and our partnerships with Pima County and the city of Tucson have had positive impact in the near-campus neighborhoods," Robbins said.

"We have recorded no instances of transmission in a classroom or laboratory setting, and I am pleased that the RT level for the 85719 ZIP code around the university is quite low, at 0.16," as of Oct. 1, he said.

Positive Tests on the Decline  

The most recent campus testing data, from Friday, showed 11 new positives from 1,282 new tests conducted by the university, for a positivity rate of 0.9%. That's an improvement over this time last week, when the positivity rate was 3.4%, with 36 positives from 1,051 tests.

Of the 11 new positives since Friday, six were from 67 tests conducted at Campus Health, where testing is provided for people with symptoms. The positives included one dorm resident, four off-campus students and one employee.

The other five positives were from 1,215 antigen tests given to asymptomatic individuals through the university's Test All, Test Smart program. The positives included one off-campus student and four employees. None of the 484 dorm residents tested through the program had a positive result.

As of Friday evening, 68 dorm students were in isolation housing, with 450 beds available. Another 58 dorm residents were isolating off-campus, Robbins said.

Any UArizona student or employee can register for a test online. The university also began randomly testing select dorm residents on Sept. 25 and will begin random employee testing today. Random testing of off-campus students will begin Oct. 12, Robbins said.

Testing numbers are regularly updated on the university's COVID-19 dashboard.

The university is also continuing its wastewater-based epidemiology program – regularly testing wastewater in dorms and other campus buildings for the presence of the virus.

Community Outreach Having an Impact

The university continues to partner with the city and county on outreach and enforcement efforts designed to crack down on large gathering and curb the spread of the virus on campus and in nearby neighborhoods.

Over the past week, the Campus Area Response Team, which responds to complaints of large gatherings and other concerns, responded to 14 incidents in the campus area – many of which did not involve university students, Robbins said. The team issued three university-related Red Tags, five citations and five code of conduct referrals to the Dean of Students. That's compared to three Red Tags, 10 citations and 13 code of conduct referrals the previous week.

In mid-September, the county and university issued a 14-day shelter-in-place recommendation for students living on or near campus. That recommendation expired on Sept. 29 but could be made again if conditions worsen, Robbins said.

"We are in a better position that we were in mid-September, in part because of the voluntary shelter-in-place self-quarantine that was initiated in collaboration with the county. That worked," he said.

"If noncompliance remains a significant issue or if we see an increase in cases, it may need to be reinstated," he added.

Pima County Public Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen joined today's briefing with Robbins and Reentry Task Force Director Dr. Richard Carmona, 17th U.S. surgeon general and a distinguished professor in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

Cullen emphasized the importance of the university and community working together to mitigate COVID-19.

"The university is not an island; there is no moat," she said. "We go in and out of it a lot, and it's really important that we work together to make sure that we can have the impact."

Cullen said that the county will be launching its own COVID-19 dashboard today that will allow the public to review data at the broader county level and also zoom in on specific geographic regions, including the campus area. 

New Help Line Answers COVID Questions

A new COVID Ambassador Team Help Line, staffed by UArizona students, has been launched to answer COVID-19-related questions, Robbins said.

People can call 520-848-4045 seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Questions will be answered live when possible, or they will be researched and responded to within 24 hours.

For urgent or after-hours needs, callers should continue to contact Campus Health. The after-hours line for medical needs is 520-570-7898.


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