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University of Arizona students, staff to face more COVID-19 procedures this semester

University of Arizona students, staff to face more COVID-19 procedures this semester

University of Arizona, pandemic, masks

A cyclist wearing a mask rides through the University of Arizona mall east of Old Main, on Aug. 28, 2020.

The University of Arizona’s spring semester will resemble the fall, but with enhancements to previously established procedures, the administration announced Tuesday.

UA will begin the semester on Jan. 13, allowing only essential in-person classes on campus. Coronavirus cases here need to flatten before in-person classes are expanded, UA President Robert C. Robbins, said in an online news briefing Tuesday.

Courses such as in-person lab instruction will be allowed for a small number of students to attend.

The University of Arizona Then and Now. Black and white photos from the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen archives paired with a color photo of the way the scene looks today. Produced by Rick Wiley / Arizona Daily Star

“At this time, we have a little over 3,900 (students) enrolled in essential classes. If conditions allow, we will expand in-person instruction, but for right now we will limit it to that number of students. Only 710 do not live in dorms or do not have a permanent residence in Arizona,” Robbins said.

Current data suggests a larger portion of out-of-state students are remaining at home compared to last semester, Robbins added.

For those out-of-state students returning to Tucson, the administration is asking them to quarantine for seven days before their arrival, refraining from unnecessary travel during that period.

An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people are expected on campus this semester, including faculty and staff.

Ahead of student move-in day, the UA will launch its testing blitz beginning Wednesday. Students who test positive will be moved to the UA’s isolation dorms.

These tests will become routine for on-campus students. They will be required each week after the UA triples its capacity to conduct 3,000 tests each day. Those tests will be completed using the school’s 45-second gargle and spit test announced last month.

“Any student visiting campus to access other services will be expected to have taken a university diagnostic test within the previous week. We will offer rewards to encourage high testing rates and public health faculty advisors will recommend levels of adherence to testing,” Robbins said.

Students, faculty and staff will be on campus at a time when Arizona has become the state with the highest rate of new infections.

“What we’re concerned with now is the aftermath of Christmas and New Year’s, which we will see till a couple of weeks later. That’s where our real concern is mid-January to late January, early February, that these numbers are already challenging our communities,” said Richard Carmona, leader of UA’s reentry task force.

To limit spread of the virus, the administration is making its text-based screening tool, Wildcat WellCheck, mandatory for employees and students before they are on campus or in class.

Failing to meet COVID-19 testing requirements could lead to a student’s campus Wi-Fi access being stripped.

The administration also acknowledged its COVID Watch Arizona mobile application, which uses low-energy Bluetooth technology on a device to provide timely contact tracing data. The app allows an infected person to send an anonymous alert to other app users whom they may have exposed to the virus.

As of last month, 14,000 people at UA had downloaded the app.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1.

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