Tuesday, January 19, 2021

UA Begins COVID Vaccine Administration; On-Campus Students Must Be Tested Twice a Week

Posted By on Tue, Jan 19, 2021 at 2:49 PM

The University of Arizona—one of six designated points of COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Pima County—began administering vaccines to qualifying individuals Tuesday, according to UA President Dr. Robert Robbins.

“[Pima County] asked us to be a point of delivery to vaccinate not just our 15,000 family members that are on the faculty and staff at the UofA, but also all childcare providers, all K-12 educators and staff and all Pima Community College faculty and staff,” Robbins said. “For the whole county of Pima, we’re the education POD.”

This week, 1,000 Phase 1B.1 educators will receive vaccines at the campus, according to a press release from the university.

UA will work with the county health department this week to “continue to refine” its delivery process, Robbins said, and it expects to deliver 396 vaccines to K-12 education workers Tuesday through Thursday.

UA will administer 84 doses to university employees Wednesday and Thursday, Robbins said. On Friday, the university expects to be “up and running” under the county’s regular scheduling process for those who register through the county.

On Friday, 500 childcare workers and K-12 teachers will receive vaccines at UA, he said.

Pima County prioritizes who receives the vaccine, and eligible recipients must register through the county to make an appointment.

Qualified 1B educators can register online at: https://webcms.pima.gov/cms/One.aspx?portalId=169&pageId=690372#School.

Qualifying individuals can register Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., by calling: 520-222-0119.

The University of Arizona’s POD dates and times this week:

  • Tuesday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (132 K-12 teachers)
  • Wednesday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (132 K-12 teachers, 42 UA educators)
  • Thursday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (132 K-12 teachers, 42 UA educators)
  • Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (last scheduled appointment 2:45 p.m.) (500 Phase 1B.1 K-12 teachers and educators in Pima County)

By April 1, Robbins hopes the university will have vaccinated 60,000 childcare providers, K-12 educators, Pima County Community College employees and UA’s staff of 15,000.

“If we could get to 1,000 a day, we could get 60,000 individuals vaccinated over the next two months,” Robbins said.

UA requiring on-campus students get tested twice a week

About 3,800 UA students returned to in-person classes Wednesday during Stage 1 of the university's reentry plan.

Robbins said Stage 1 will continue through the week of Jan. 25, but it’s possible the phase of limited in-person classes could run throughout the entire semester.

“We’ve gotta see the numbers come down before we can move to Stage 2, which would be up to 50 students in a classroom.” 

In attempts to control the spread of COVID-19, on-campus dorm students will take COVID-19 tests twice a week with at least 48 hours between tests.

Students will take the new PCR saline gargle test developed by Michael Worobey, the head of UA’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Those receiving the test have to swish and gargle 5 milliliters of saltwater three times, and spit the solution into a tube to be tested. At a press conference in December, Worobey said the test detects present coronavirus material and amplifies it to a traceable amount.

click to enlarge UA Begins COVID Vaccine Administration; On-Campus Students Must Be Tested Twice a Week
Michael Worobey at the University of Arizona's virtual press conference on Dec. 7.
Michael Worobey, the head of the University of Arizona's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, demonstrates a new saline gargle test to test for the presence of COVID-19.

Worobey said he assessed the test's effectiveness by giving potentially infected persons both saline and nasal swab tests. He found the gargle swish test pulled coronavirus material out of about 30-35% more people than the nasal swab.

“I think this is going to become the new gold standard for how to test for this virus,” Worobey said.

Robbins said the swish gargle test will allow the university to conduct 3,000 COVID-19 tests a week. With the nasal swab, they could only conduct 1,000 tests a week.

COVID-19 on campus

From Jan. 9 through 18, UA administered 11,713 COVID-19 tests and found 194 positive cases for a positivity rating of 1.7%.

As of Jan. 15, 28 students were in isolation dorm beds with 568 beds still available, according to Robbins.

Although positive tests have dropped since last semester, Reentry Task Force Director Richard Carmona called the numbers “still unacceptably high.”

While some statewide COVID-19 statistics have appeared to improve recently,  Carmona warned not to become complacent.

Carmona went over data showing the 14-day change of coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations in Arizona. Cases declined 10%, deaths increased 119% and hospitalizations increased 8%.

“There’s a lot of data still coming in, and often, the data that we see on a daily basis isn’t reflective of what’s actually happening because it takes a while to get that data tabulated and put into the system,” Carmona said. “Although it looks like we’re doing a little bit better, we have more testing, we got some control, we’ve managed to get the university open relatively safely, our students are doing well—but we’re far from where we need to be. It’s still a long journey ahead of us.

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