Big virus on campus

In “Last-Ditch Effort,” UA and Pima County Health Department recommend two-week quarantine for students in high-transmissibility area

Robert Robbins
Robert Robbins

University of Arizona President Dr. Robert Robbins and Pima County Public Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen announced on Sept. 14 they are recommending a 14-day quarantine for students living on and off campus within a geographical boundary they have identified as showing high transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Robbins said this is a "last ditch" effort to get students to follow public health directives before they have to take more drastic measures. Robbins gave off a frustrated tone at the press conference, saying the university is dealing with a "blatant disregard for public health measures."

"I'm short of saying I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore," Robbins said. "This is part of being a good member of society, to take into account the health of others, not just your individual health and your individual desire to go out and party."

High-density apartments near campus are also included in the recommendation.Robbins said there is COVID-19 transmission happening around campus because of the "selfish behavior of a few individuals."

Cullen said they aren't seeing transmission as a result of classes, labs or on-campus activity, but more so off-campus social activities and parties.

The quarantine allows exceptions for students enrolled in essential in-person classes such as science labs and performance and fine arts classes. Students in the quarantine boundary are also allowed to go on essential shopping trips, appointments and work if necessary.

"There are a clear subset of individuals, primarily students, who are not following the rules," Robbins said during a press conference. "Today, we're going to ratchet up the warnings, the encouragement to please follow the rules."

Cullen said that by establishing a recommended two-week quarantine, they will have the potential to ensure that the increased virus transmission will go back down.

Robbins said enforcement of the recommended quarantine will be difficult, but the university has established a support system to assist students during this time and he hopes they will follow this recommendation before the condition of COVID-19 spread at UA worsens.

He said the university administration anticipated this problem once students came to campus at the beginning of the semester. He hoped the university wouldn't have to institute "more draconian measures, but we're to that point."

Robbins said the university will have to move toward an all-digital learning model if they cannot get the situation under control.

"This is it, this is your last chance," he said.

Cullen said the county is actively looking at other potential options besides an optional quarantine that they could legally pursue if the spread of COVID-19 around the university continues.

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