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UA preparing to test all campus students leaving for the Thanksgiving holiday
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UA preparing to test all campus students leaving for the Thanksgiving holiday

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The UA will test students leaving campus for the Thanksgiving holiday. All classes following the holiday will be held remotely until the end of the fall semester.

While encouraged by decreasing COVID-19 numbers, UA leaders said the next four weeks are critical for the university in dealing with the pandemic.

The school, which on Monday allowed some pre-selected classes of up to 50 students to have the option of meeting in person on campus, remains in the second stage of its reentry plan. President Robert C. Robbins expects the school to remain in this stage for the next four weeks, which at the time students will break for the Thanksgiving holiday.

After Thanksgiving, the school will hold only online classes and final exams through the end of the fall semester.

“I remain optimistic,” Robbins said during the school’s weekly update. “We have entered a particularly critical period, the next four weeks. From now until Nov. 26 when we expect many students to leave the Tucson area ... we need to stay focused, we need to stay vigilant.”

In preparation for the holiday break, the UA will be testing students for COVID-19 before they leave campus. Many students are expected to return home for the holidays.

Main campus students will be required to fill out a travel survey detailing their plans for the Thanksgiving break. Afterward, students will be directed to taking an antigen test before traveling. Testing will be done by appointments only and will begin Nov. 6, the school said Monday.

Students leaving their campus residences to travel outside Tucson for Thanksgiving will be encouraged to not return to campus afterward and to finish the semester remotely. Other students can return to their campus residences to finish the fall semester online.

The university has seen a drop in its positive COVID-19 cases, Robbins said. In addition, the Rt number, which is the average number of people who become infected by a single person with the virus, remains relatively low. The transmission number for the university’s 85719 ZIP code is .68, which is slightly higher than the previous week’s number of .35. The goal is to keep the number below 1.

On Oct. 23, the university administered 1,016 COVID-19 tests and had two positives. The testing had no positive results from 251 dorm residents, one positive among 515 off-campus students and one positive test among 204 employees tested. Robbins said there were no positives among a total of 145 tests administered Saturday and Sunday.

Since August, the school has conducted 56,368 COVID-19 tests and has a positivity rate of 4.3%, officials said. The school wants to keep the rate of positive cases under 5%.

“We are urging all of our students to please, please continue practicing good public health measures,” Robbins said, noting that this weekend is Halloween, traditionally an active time for parties and other large gathering.

Robbins said the university and city officials had to shut down a large gathering of more than 100 people over the weekend.

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