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University of Arizona sees spike in COVID-19 cases, ramps up testing

University of Arizona sees spike in COVID-19 cases, ramps up testing

University of Arizona, coronavirus pandemic

The UA has reported 37 confirmed virus cases among the 9,356 tests of its community between July 31 and Aug. 25.

The University of Arizona’s reports of a spike in coronavirus cases has the administration emphasizing that students need to adhere to safety protocols as the campus heads into the Labor Day weekend.

The school said it would begin offering more COVID-19 tests and work with partners to shut down large student gatherings near campus over the holiday weekend.

There were more than 200 confirmed cases since the start of the work week with 126 found in the 1,520 tests done on Wednesday, which surpassed Tuesday’s high of 63.

The total cases through the UA’s supplying of tests for all students, faculty and staff now stands at 397 positives from the 15,310 tests completed between July 31 and Sept. 2. The administration said most of the cases are being found in off-campus students who come to the UA for free testing.

“I don’t know what more we can do, then to implore everyone, please follow the rules. This is not a game,” President Robert Robbins said during a news conference Thursday. “Testing, tracing and treatment through isolation can only work if we do not overwhelm the capacity of our campus resources and those in the community.”

Currently, 54 students who tested positive are in the UA’s isolation dorm. The rest are quarantining in their homes or apartments, officials said. The administration has secured enough isolation space for 600 people, if needed.

During the university’s contact tracing efforts, they haven’t found any “strong associations” causing cases to spread, according to Dr. Richard Carmona, the UA’s reentry task-force leader.

The reported cases include an outbreak within a sorority house, which is part of the 26 houses on or near campus and among the 51 Greek organizations.

Robbins said the Dean of Students is involved in all cases of potential violations of the Student Code of Conduct for violating school health and safety rules.

“They are university-affiliated organizations. So, we do have some ability, for instance, if they have violations to close the chapter and to move them off campus, but we’re not to that point yet,” Robbins said. “I would applaud, in particular, this one sorority for how they have been very responsive and responsible in managing this unfortunate spiking of cases in their sorority house.”

Robbins said most of the positive cases are from asymptomatic individuals but there are reports of symptomatic cases showing up at the campus health clinic.

In efforts to find its asymptomatic community members, the UA is “dramatically” increasing its testing capacity to complete 5,000 COVID-19 tests per week. Students will be able to sign up for weekly tests if they want, officials said.

The administration hopes to halt any plans of large gatherings this weekend, however, there seem to be plans already in motion.

“As late as yesterday afternoon I was hearing ‘Oh yeah, there’s going to be a major party, I can tell you where it’s going to be, it’s going to be a blowout, everybody show up,’” Robbins said. So, we kind of know where some of these parties are going to be and unfortunately for the party organizers, I think it’s not going to be successful.”

The administration will work with its private security personnel, an unarmed group not authorized to intervene but report noncompliance to the Dean of Students Office. The UA will also work with the Tucson Police Department and neighborhood associations to address off-campus concerns about large student gatherings.

The merchants along University Boulevard have also been contacted to ensure they are enforcing safe health practices while serving patrons.

“The vast majority of our students are complying. I see them, I talk to them, they’re trying to do the right thing. But a small number who do not follow the guidelines and adhere to directives can spoil this for everyone,” Robbins said.

“This is a deadly disease. So, I’m asking everybody, please follow the rules. You may not get sick, but you can spread this disease.”

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1.

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