UArizona to Expand COVID-19 Student Testing in Spring

Nov 9, 2020

TUCSON, Ariz. — The University of Arizona plans to test all students who attend in-person classes in the spring, President Robert C. Robbins, MD, said today during his weekly briefing on the campus reentry progress.

That will expand on the testing strategy implemented this fall, in which students living in dorms were required to take a COVID-19 test prior to move-in and optional testing has been available for all students throughout the semester.

Meanwhile, fall semester testing continues, and today marks the first day of pre-holiday testing blitz in which all students who plan to travel for the holidays are encouraged to schedule a COVID-19 antigen test to help curb travel-related spread of the virus. Main campus students also have been asked to complete a Thanksgiving travel survey outlining their travel plans for Thanksgiving break, which begins Nov. 26.

Following the break, all UArizona courses will move to an online format for the remainder of the semester. Currently, courses of up to 50 students are allowed to meet in person as the university remains in stage two of its reentry plan.

Spring course registration began today, and Dr. Robbins said he hopes to start the spring semester in stage two, with courses of up to 50 permitted to meet. However, the university will have an enhanced test, trace and treat protocol in place that will require all students attended in-person classes to first test negative for COVID-19.

Students who received a positive antigen, PCR or antibody test within 90 days of the start of the semester will not be required to test again, but they must provide documentation.

If public health conditions permit, the university could move to stage three later in the spring semester, allowing for in-person classes of up to 100 students, Dr. Robbins said. With COVID-19 cases increasing nationwide, however, Dr. Robbins called that only a “remote possibility.”

Classes with more than 100 students will be fully online for the spring semester.

COVID-19 Cases Remain Low on Campus as Cases Rise Statewide, Nationally

As COVID-19 cases trend upward in Arizona and across the country, numbers on campus remain relatively low.

“We continue to see a rise in cases, not only in Arizona but nationally, following Halloween and a lot of rallies, a lot of public gatherings, and I think we’ll continue to see positive rates go up,” Dr. Robbins said. “But through our testing program on campus … our positivity rate remains low.”

Between Oct. 29 and Nov. 7, there were 71 positive results out of 8,345 tests conducted on campus, for a positivity rate of 0.9%. Testing numbers are updated regularly on the university’s COVID-19 dashboard.

In addition, the number of large gatherings reported to the Campus Area Response Team – a partnership between the university and Tucson Police Department – is down. Seven incidences were reported the week of Nov. 2, compared to 18 the week prior.

“I am encouraged by the improved compliance with public health measures this last week,” Dr. Robbins said.

However, Dr. Robbins and Campus Reentry Task Force Director and Distinguished Professor of Public Health Richard Carmona, MD, MPH, who also joined the briefing, stressed that this is not a time to be complacent, and following public health guidelines remains essential.

“Overall, we are encouraged by the numbers we see in relation to our university,” said Dr. Carmona, 17th. U.S. surgeon general and a distinguished professor in the Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. “But we also know that we’re part of a bigger community and (that’s) why we stay very closely connected to the city and the county, because we all share that 1.1 or 1.2 million people – the population of Pima County.”

Click here to view video from the Nov. 9, 2020, Campus Reentry Briefing on YouTube.

The UArizona Health Sciences COVID-19 Research webpage can be found here.

For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university’s COVID-19 webpage.

For UANews coverage of COVID-19, visit

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A version of this article appeared originally on the UANews website.

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About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. UArizona Health Sciences includes the Colleges of Medicine (Tucson and Phoenix), Nursing, Pharmacy, and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona, the greater Southwest and around the world to provide next-generation education, research and outreach. A major economic engine, Health Sciences employs nearly 5,000 people, has approximately 4,000 students and 900 faculty members, and garners $200 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).

About the University of Arizona
The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top 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 more information: (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).

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