UArizona Welcomes More Students to Campus

Nov 18, 2020
The university will expand in-person instruction with half the semester left to go, bringing about 1,500 more students to campus a week.


TUCSON, Ariz. — Additional students are expected to be on the University of Arizona campus this week as more in-person instruction gets underway.


With about half of the semester left to go, the university is resuming in-person instruction for classes that have 30 or fewer students and were designated as in-person courses at the time of registration.

Students don face coverings while on campus on the first day of classes, Aug. 24. Though most classes began in an online format, about 5,000 students attended “essential courses,” such as research labs, in person. (University Communications, Chris Richards)The change will bring about 1,500 more students to campus a week, UArizona President Robert C. Robbins, MD, said in his virtual weekly briefing on the campus reentry progress.

“This is lower than our initial estimate of about 2,500 students because students and their instructors had the opportunity to evaluate what they wanted and, in the spirit of shared governance, make collective decisions about how to proceed at this point,” Dr. Robbins said. “There are many, many students who want that in-person interaction and many professors who want that in-person interaction, but, obviously, there are people who don’t want it, so we’ve given them the option.”

Due to COVID-19, most classes have been offered in an online format since the start of the semester, with the exception of those deemed “essential courses” – such as research labs and performing arts classes – which brought about 6,200 students to campus.

The decision to expand in-person instruction was made based on improving public health metrics on and around campus.

“Provost Liesl Folks and her team have been in touch with instructors – each and every instructor – and students about preparations for this advancement,” Dr. Robbins said. “As I’ve stated since March, our planning and the steps we take are guided by the scientific understanding of COVID-19 and its impact on public health, both of which are advancing each and every day.”

Testing and Enforcement Numbers

Since March, the university has distributed personal protective equipment and test collection kits throughout the state. The university itself has administered over 46,000 tests to students and employees, with more than 20,000 of those going to off-campus students.

Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 10, the university administered 6,963 tests with 42 positive results, for a positivity rate of 0.6%. Testing numbers are regularly updated on the COVID-19 dashboard, and any UArizona student or employee can register for a test online.

Dr. Robbins said there is no indication from contact tracing of virus transmission from students to faculty or staff.

“This apparent lack of transmission mirrors what we’ve seen in the near-campus neighborhoods, as well,” he said, adding that the Rt number – the average number of people who become infected by a single person with the virus – is now 0.21 in the university’s 85719 ZIP code.

The university continues to work with the county and city on efforts to stop large gatherings and increase compliance with public health guidelines on campus and in surrounding neighborhoods.

In the past week, the Campus Area Response Team – a partnership between the UArizona Police Department and Tucson Police Department – issued five Red Tags, seven citations and eight code of conduct referrals to the Dean of Students.

Dr. Robbins applauded the work of many student volunteers throughout the pandemic, including public health students who have been working with the county on contact tracing, medical students who have provided health care to homeless populations, and pharmacy students who have been taking COVID-19 overflow calls from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County Public Health Director Theresa Cullen, MD, an associate professor in the UArizona Department of Family and Community Medicine at the College of Medicine – Tucson, who joined Dr. Robbins and Reentry Task Force Director Richard Carmona, MD, MPH, at the briefing, emphasized that the university is not an island but a key part of the broader community. The 17th U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Carmona also is a distinguished professor in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

“Our engagement with each other – with you as community members, as well as you as students and faculty and staff – together is what’s going to enable us to make a difference,” Dr. Cullen said.

Students Will Take Pre-Thanksgiving Travel Survey

Dr. Robbins said the university is working to prevent an uptick in cases around Halloween, which is on a Saturday this year and could lead to an increase in cases just before many students head home for Thanksgiving.

The university is taking three steps to promote safe travel over the Thanksgiving break, which is Nov 26-27.

  • All main campus students will be required to complete a Thanksgiving Travel Survey, which will be available beginning Oct. 23. The survey will allow the university to be informed of each student’s plans.
  • A testing blitz will take place from Nov. 9-15, giving students who test positive time to quarantine for 10 days before the holiday.
  • Students are expected to choose from one of three travel options designed in concert with CDC guidance and best practices for minimizing the spread of COVID-19.

The university is strongly encouraging students to travel away from campus for the holiday and then finish the semester remotely, Dr. Robbins said. However, dorms will remain open for those who can’t travel or need to travel and return.

“As we turns toward the home stretch of the semester, please remember to do your part,” Dr. Robbins said. “Wash your hands, cover your face and keep physically distanced from each other as much as you possibly can.”

Click here to view video from the Oct. 12, 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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