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University of Arizona: Key factors to determine operations during COVID-19 pandemic
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University of Arizona: Key factors to determine operations during COVID-19 pandemic

UA campus, COVID-19

A committee of public-health faculty members at the University of Arizona will track the coronavirus metrics and meet weekly with President Robert C. Robbins to decide next steps.

The University of Arizona has identified at least 12 coronavirus metrics that will help it decide whether activities should be ramped up or ultimately shut down, officials say.

Internally, the UA will address: seven-day averages of confirmed coronavirus cases and positive diagnostic tests from on-campus random sampling; percentage of tests returned in 48 hours or less; percentage of Campus Health appointments completed in 24 or less; percentage of contract tracing investigations started within 48 hours of identifying a case; and percent of dormitory isolation space.

The external factors are: seven-day trends of confirmed cases and inpatients in county hospitals; the use of intensive-care unit and non-ICU beds occupied in Pima County; the county’s testing capacity with results in around 48 hours; and the seven-day average of positive diagnostic tests reported to Pima County.

“These are the kinds of issues we knew we had to track, but now we’re getting better at tracking them because our public-health scientists have put a lot of effort into defining those trigger points that will help us decide do we move forward or do we stop right now because maybe it isn’t safe to move forward,” said Richard Carmona, leader of UA’s reentry taskforce, during a press conference Thursday.

Both Carmona and President Robert C. Robbins shared their optimism about the downward trend in positive cases week-over-week.

“When you look at our numbers, again cautiously optimistic, but we continue to trend in the right way. This is very good but (we) can’t be complacent, now we have to work even harder, bear down even more to make sure that those cases don’t come back up,” Carmona said.

There will be a committee of public-health faculty members helping examine these numbers and meeting with Robbins weekly regarding the status of on-campus operations.

A shutdown won’t be determined by any one metric but done with a “holistic view” Robbins said.

“We’re going to see cases go up periodically, but we will work with the public-health experts as we slowly ramp into the semester,” Robbins said.

To start the semester, more than 5,000 students will attend a select number of in-person classes on campus beginning Aug. 24, such as performing-arts courses, medical courses and courses involving research lab work. All other classes will start online.

The following week, operations will progress to smaller, in-person classes and in-person flex classes — a mix of online and in-person instruction — bringing about 14,000 students to UA classrooms.

By Sept. 8, the administration hopes to have — at at peak periods — 25,000 to 30,000 people on campus during the week.

The ramp-up period will allow time to clear isolation beds for students who test positive for the virus. The administration believes at least 250 asymptomatic students may test positive before moving into the dorms.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or sdavis@tucson.com

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