The University of Arizona is reporting elevated COVID-19 cases reflective of a state-wide uptick after large gatherings occurred over the Halloween weekend, UA President Robert C. Robbins said in a news conference Monday, Nov. 2.
From Oct. 23 through Nov. 1, UA found 79 positive coronavirus cases after administering 7,122 tests for a positivity rate of 1.1%, an increase from the 0.6% rate the university reported the previous 10-day period.
The university found seven gatherings with over 100 attendees throughout the past week. UA’s CART team, a collaboration with the UA and Tucson police departments that looks for noncompliance to COVID-19 precautions, responded to 18 incidents since Oct. 26.
“This is not just a nuisance. These people who are acting indiscriminately are placing all of us at risk,” Reentry Task Force Director Richard Carmona said.
The university allowed classes of 50 or fewer students to return to campus last week as it continues phase 2 of its reopening plan. According to Carmona, there have been no issues with classroom transmissibility.
Robbins says the university will continue in this phase until fall break on Nov. 26 if public health metrics tracking the spread of coronavirus allow. However, some of these metrics are beginning to cause concern.
“We’re concerned about the deterioration of conditions nationally,” Robbins said. “While Pima County is faring better than some other areas, we do see some signs of concern here as well.”
Carmona said Pima County’s current R0, pronounced “R naught,” which indicates how contagious a virus is, has increased to 1.71 from 0.99 last week. The transmissibility rate for the zip code surrounding the university has increased from 0.68 to 1.25 this week.
Statewide, coronavirus is spreading as fast as it did in June. Carmona went over data showing over the past 14 days, coronavirus cases in the state increased by 67%, while deaths increased by 57%.
As COVID-19 cases rise, the university is continuing its preparation for fall break, requiring all main campus students to complete a survey with their traveling plans. After completing the survey, students will be directed to a website to register for the university’s appointment-only “testing blitz” from Nov. 9-15.
If students travel outside the Tucson area over fall break, the university is asking them to complete the semester outside the area or remotely online. Those who don’t travel can complete the semester from their student residences.