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University of Arizona planning in-person fall classes

Posted at 8:22 AM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 22:26:35-04

TUCSON, AZ — "We've made the decision to have face-to-face classes in the Fall. We are absolutely planning to do that."

It is a bold prediction from University of Arizona President Dr. Robert Robbins.

"We're going to put a lot of time into making this the safest campus that it can be."

And for Robbins, who's also a medical doctor, that means honing in on three critical components.

"Testing, contract tracing, and isolation. Those are going to be the keys. Until we get the ultimate herd immunity which is a vaccine."

In fact, testing the university's 60,000 students, faculty, and staff is part of the plan -- a plan that also includes regular testing for the virus itself.

"There will be a resurgence. The question is going to be the plan for mitigation, and how we handle an increase. Do we close down when there are 10 cases? 20? 50? 100? We're working out those contingency plans right now."

Dr. Robbins says unless there is new guidance from the CDC or Governor's office before the Fall, the university will follow a hybrid model with classes online and in-person, and that's not all. Dr. Robbins says the university is also planning to move students back into dorms, but with some modifications, like people wearing masks on campus, having special quarantined residence halls, and only having one student per room in those quarantined residence halls.

But what if someone in a regular dorm got sick?

"We would want to test everyone in the dorm and if they tested positive, we would want to put them in quarantine. Maybe we would that dorm and make it a quarantine dorm. All of you in this dorm are now quarantined and you have to take your classes online."

Starting Thursday, the university is rolling out a plan to test all first responders statewide.

"We think we can do it ourselves. We know we can do it cheaper and we think it's our obligation to provide that service to frequently test our facility staff and students to try and keep the environment as safe as possible."

But Dr. Robbins doesn't want to stop there. In fact, he'd like to test all of Arizona's 7.3 million residents.

"I think it would be instructive and helpful to getting people back to work. I think it would provide some sense of protection if they have antibodies. This will continue to be debated but I would like to see everyone tested."

On Thursday, Arizona State University President Michael Crow also announced a plan to have fall classes in-person.