University Highlights, Week of September 13, 2021

Sept. 17, 2021

Dear Students and Colleagues,

It has been a great first four weeks of the Fall 2021 semester. I have enjoyed seeing students back on campus, and, for those of you who are here, I hope you have as well. I appreciate your continuing efforts mitigating the spread of the delta variant and, more generally, for your care and compassion for all the members of our campus community. 

As I noted during Monday’s University Status Update briefing, the vast majority of our community has complied with the University face covering requirement and other mitigation strategies. Combined with the high rate of vaccination among students and employees, these strategies have kept the number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 to a minimum. 

This is especially apparent compared to last year around this time, when we were seeing around 200 daily new cases, including a peak positivity rate of 17.5% on September 16, when we had 245 positives from 1,401 tests. Today, we are in a much better place, with only 34 positives from 1,308 tests on Thursday, September 16, a positivity rate of just 2.6%.  We must remain diligent, but this change from last year is cause for optimism. See the COVID-19 dashboard for the latest data.

Cats TakeAway Testing

Continued success depends on frequent testing, which is why we have launched Cats TakeAway Testing this week as an addition to existing in-person COVID-19 testing locations. 

Available to students, employees, and DCCs, this new program allows you to pick up a PCR saline gargle test kit and drop off your sample at one of the designated locations on the Tucson campus. Locations for other campuses in Arizona are planned. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you can go to the Campus Health TakeAway Testing location to pick up a test kit and drop off a sample. Appointments are not required. 

For more information, including instructions and FAQs, visit the TakeAway Testing website.  

Dorm Resident Testing 

Our new Cats TakeAway testing program is available to all students, including on-campus residents living in dorms with required weekly testing. These dorm-specific requirements, of which we currently have several, depend upon approval through the county and state. In each case, we submit a request to the Pima County Health Department requesting approval to require testing of a cohort of on-campus residents weekly. If they approve, they submit the request to the Arizona Department of Health services for review and determination. 

In compliance with the Governor’s executive order and the law, the ADHS approval process for required testing considers a number of factors, including the percentage of dorm residents who have tested positive in the prior 14 days and the level of SARS-CoV-2 detected in wastewater. We are committed to minimizing the risk of COVID-19 for our community and we will continue to offer free and convenient testing to those living, studying, and working on campus. 

Hispanic Heritage Month 

I also want to recognize the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month earlier this week. 

Over the past 18 months, our cultural traditions and the communities they sustain have been sources of inspiration and resolve as we confront the challenges of COVID-19. This just one reason why we must continue to celebrate those things that make our University unique, resilient, and connected to this vibrant community that will be here long after the pandemic is behind us. 

Shaped by our location in the U.S. – Mexico borderlands, the University of Arizona has a rich tradition of service and positive impact for Hispanic communities in Arizona and throughout the greater Southwest. We are very proud of both this history and our status and leadership as a Hispanic Serving Institution. Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is a key marker of this part of our mission and of the role that Hispanic and Latina/o/x communities and cultures play in our diverse University. 

As part of Hispanic Heritage Month in 2020, the University launched the Hispanic Heritage cultural logo. You can find celebrations, exhibits, and events on the University Master Calendar and in our social media channels, and look for messages from your college or department as well. 

Next week

Beginning Monday, September 20, the University will hold a weeklong celebration of the Washington D.C. Center for Outreach and Collaboration, which was established in the nation’s capital to extend the impact of the University’s research and scholarship. I look forward to sharing news from the many presentations and discussions we will host for partners and supporters. If you are interested in joining the virtual component of any of the hybrid events, visit the D.C. Center’s event page.

Due to the D.C. Center events, we will not hold a University Status Update briefing on Monday, but we will resume the week of September 27. 

Thank you for all that you do for the University of Arizona. 

Bear Down and Mask Up,

Robert C. Robbins, M.D.

The University of Arizona