UArizona President Outlines Fall Return to Campus

The university will offer four class formats and implement a range of safety measures on campus when the fall semester begins on Aug. 24 as scheduled with a mix of in-person and remote instruction.

Masks are required in University of Arizona buildings and outdoor spaces where 6 feet of distance is difficult to maintain.

Masks are required in University of Arizona buildings and outdoor spaces where 6 feet of distance is difficult to maintain.University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins, MD, confirmed today that the fall semester will begin as scheduled one month from tomorrow, on Aug. 24, with a mix of in-person and remote instruction. More than half of all classes will include an in-person component.

“I know many of you are awaiting the answer to the question: Will the University of Arizona be open for in-person classes in the fall of 2020? The answer is yes,” Dr. Robbins said during a virtual briefing on the campus reentry plan.

However, campus will look different than it did before, with increased cleaning and sanitation, reduced class sizes, mandated face coverings and other safety measures and public health messaging, he said.

Robert C. Robbins, MD

In addition, diagnostic and antibody testing will be available for students and employees, Dr. Robbins said.

Dr. Robbins gave the update alongside 17th U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, MD, MPH, a distinguished professor at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and director of the Campus Reentry Task Force. The task force has been meeting throughout the summer and advising university leadership on how to proceed with a return to campus in the fall.

“There are no risk-free options in return to our campus. Our plan is informed by international and national experts, including Dr. Carmona, who has for years had expertise in virology managing public health emergencies and other types of crises,” Dr. Robbins said. “Our faculty and staff remain our greatest asset, in addition to our students, and I am confident that our broad capabilities, contributions and resilience will enable us to weather this period and emerge even stronger than we are today.”

University Will Offer Mix of Online, In-Person Classes

The university will offer four learning modalities in the fall, as announced during last week’s reentry briefing on July 16.

“Our aim with this work has been to ensure that we are able to continue to serve our students and the state when the academic year begins, and a key consideration is (that) our enrollment, to date, indicates that Wildcats and their parents believe in the value of returning to campus to pursue their education,” Dr. Robbins said.

The four classroom formats are:

  • In-person
    Students and faculty will attend classes in person, with enhanced health protections in place, including physical distancing and mandated face coverings.
  • Flex in-person
    These courses will include a mix of in-person and online elements, as determined by the instructor.
  • Live online
    In this remote learning option, students and instructors are online simultaneously.
  • iCourses
    Students complete these courses independently through the university’s D2L online learning system.

Faculty members worked with their department heads, chairs or directors to decide which courses would have an in-person component. Students can log into the university’s online student portal, UAccess Student, to see which formats their courses will have. 

Dr. Robbins urged those with known medical conditions to consider online instruction rather than return to campus.

“We know that others are unable to return to campus and we have planned for excellent alternatives that will be well-supported this coming academic year,” he said. “Each of us needs to make the best decision for ourselves and for those around us.”

Testing for Students and Employees

Richard Carmona, MD, MPHDr. Robbins also discussed diagnostic and antibody testing plans on campus.

All students who will be living on campus will receive an antigen test at McKale Memorial Center prior to moving into their dorms. If a student tests positive, he or she will be required to isolate for a 10-day period at a designated isolation facility or space, Robbins said.

Testing also will be available for faculty and staff, as well as students who live off campus, as part of the university’s broader Test, Trace and Treat strategy, which includes virus testing, antibody testing, traditional contact tracing, an exposure notification app and on-campus medical care, among other components. A schedule of dates and times for diagnostic and antibody testing will be announced, Dr. Robbins said.

The university will offer three types of testing:

  • Antigen testing can be quickly administered and results can be delivered in one to two hours. This will be used as a tool to test as many people as possible when students, faculty and staff return to campus.
  • Polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, testing is the gold standard for diagnosing the presence of the virus. Results take 24 to 48 hours. The university will generally use this test for individuals showing symptoms of the virus.
  • Antibody testing indicates whether a person has had an immune response to the virus, due to a previous infection. A UArizona-developed test has demonstrated 99.4% specificity for COVID-19, which means the chance of a false positive is 1 in 3.5 million. The university recently expanded its statewide antibody testing effort and announced a $7.7 million yearlong study funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify patterns of COVID-19 immunity over time in previously and newly infected individuals.

Additional Measures on Campus

Face coverings will continue to be required in all UArizona buildings and outside on campus, except in areas where continuous physical distancing of at least 6 feet is possible. The face covering mandate went into effect on campus on June 18.

“The best medicine we’ve got right now is a mask. It’s easy,” Dr. Robbins said.

In addition, Arizona Student Unions has adapted meal and dining services with its Arizona Dining SMART plan, which promotes social distancing, increased sanitation, and wellness checks and other requirements for food service employees.

Adjustments Will Be Made as Necessary

Dr. Robbins said university leaders will continue to monitor public health conditions on and off campus and make adjustments to the reentry plan as necessary.

Details of the are available on the university’s COVID-19 website, and the latest updates will continue to be posted there.

“I am very proud of our entire reentry team as well, as well as the students, faculty and staff committed to a successful fall semester at the University of Arizona,” Dr. Robbins said. “We look forward to starting classes on Aug. 24 and welcoming you, whether in person or online. Please make the best decision for you and your health. We support you with whichever decision you make.”

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 https://uanews.arizona.edu/news/covid19.

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

NOTE: Photos available upon request.

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: uahs.arizona.edu (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: arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).