Courtesy Creative Commons
This week, University of Arizona President Dr. Robert Robbins and Campus Reentry Task Force Director Dr. Richard Carmona announced they will partner with the Tucson Police Department to crack down on COVID-19 safety violations that occur off-campus.
The UA began its fall semester on Aug. 24 and has seen new COVID-19 cases pop up since students returned to Tucson. Although many classes are operating remotely, university officials believe off-campus student gatherings and social activity have been the driving cause of these new cases.
In a press conference earlier this week, Robbins said all the safety precautions and systems put in place by the university to prevent transmission of the disease on campus requires students, staff and faculty to follow the rules. But what students do in their free time off-campus is by nature unregulated and prime for safety violations—until now.
The university’s new Campus Area Response Team (CART) is a joint effort between the university and TPD focused on responding to reports of student social gatherings that “violate city ordinances and undermine health and safety guidelines,” according to a press release.
In partnership with the city and county, the police will be responding to residential complaints in neighborhoods surrounding the university. Businesses in the University Boulevard/Fourth Avenue corridor have been asked to reinforce public health directives at this time.
“We encourage everyone: Please do not have large gatherings,” Robbins said at the press conference. “We know that is ripe for transmission of this deadly virus.”
Tucson Ward 6 council member Steve Kozachik expressed concern in his weekly newsletter
about the large student housing apartments located near Park Avenue and Speedway Boulevard. He said that nearly 2,000 students have arrived from out of town and checked into their rooms without any COVID-19 testing or wellness screenings.
“That’s a lot of bodies, from all over the country, crammed into a pretty small area, none of whom were tested, and no game plan for isolating sick people or tracing their contacts,” Kozachik said.
He reached out to a private urgent care business called Rescue Me Wellness to provide free COVID-19 testing in a parking lot adjacent to the apartments. In a three-hour period last Saturday, Aug. 30, more than 100 student residents were tested and of them, 36 reported having active COVID-19 symptoms or have been in contact with someone who is sick.
“The brushfire that could happen if an outbreak went unchecked is exactly the sort of condition that President Robbins has warned might close things down on campus; that is, peoples’ behavior that’s not under the control of the UA,” Kozachik said. “We know that behavior is going to be an issue. The UA had to shut down the sand volleyball facility over by Coronado dorm due to too many people packed onto it playing volleyball. All we can do now is hope this testing happened in time to avoid significant community spread.”
Last week, KGUN News reported
that six live-in members of a UA sorority house tested positive for COVID-19, and the house is now under quarantine.
All students living in on-campus dorms are required to take a COVID-19 test. Between July 31 and Aug. 31, the university administered 11,319 antigen tests with 103 positive results, and 442 PCR tests with two positive results.