Nov. 19, 2020
Walkers Reminded to Mask Up to Keep Tumamoc Hill Open
TUCSON, Ariz. — Compliance with Tumamoc Hill's mask mandate is lagging and must be improved for the popular walking destination on Tucson's west side to remain open, hill officials say.
"The inherent paradox of the use of Tumamoc during these times unfortunately continues," said Benjamin Wilder, director of the University of Arizona Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill. "What brings stability and release also holds the threat of the virus, due to how many people walk the hill. We know how important the hill is to individuals in our community at this time, which we are grateful for, and the last thing we want is to close the hill. However, if we view the hill as an unsafe place due to a failure to wear masks, closure remains an option."
The hill, which is managed by the University of Arizona in partnership with Pima County, closed to the public in mid-March, then reopened on Memorial Day. Mask compliance reached its lowest point in June and July when case numbers were peaking in Arizona.
Wilder said there was a dramatic increase in mask wearing when hill officials urged walkers to follow COVID-19 mitigation efforts, which include wearing face coverings and maintaining physical distancing with help from arrows spaced out every 10 feet on the hill's walking path.
About 70% of people in late summer masked up, Wilder said. A notification board at the base of the hill lists the previous and current day's percentage of visitors wearing face coverings.
Morning walkers have kept about 60-70% compliance, Wilder said, but compliance by evening walkers has fallen to about 30%.
"We're seeing people with masks, but they're wearing them around their wrists, ears or chins, rather than over their mouth and nose," Wilder said. "And it is finally much more enjoyable to be outside in the evenings, which we hope encourages people to keep their masks on."
With Thanksgiving around the corner and COVID-19 case numbers climbing, face coverings remain essential for slowing community spread of the virus, Wilder said.
Tumamoc Hill is partnering with Pima County health officials, who are stationed at the base of the hill on Saturday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday evenings to hand out free masks and encourage their use.
The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top 40 public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university ranked in the top 20 in 2018 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $687 million in annual research expenditures. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 65 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually. For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university's COVID-19 webpage.