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Party down, infections up? UArizona COVID concern

Labor Day holiday weekend worries
Posted at 7:18 PM, Sep 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-03 22:18:02-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - The COVID infection rate at University of Arizona is slipping upwards -- and the university president is worried Labor Day holiday parties could push it still higher. The University’s trying to encourage precautions on -- and especially off -- campus.

University President and medical doctor Robert Robbins says, “As late as yesterday afternoon I was hearing, ‘Oh yeah, there's gonna be a major party. I can tell you where it's gonna be. It's gonna be a blowout, everybody show up.’ That is not that's not the message -- that people are not adhering to the message.”

Dr. Robbins is worried the Labor Day weekend coming up will be a prime time to party down and pump up the infection rate with parties like one with a backyard packed with people seen in a neighborhood near UA early in the pandemic response.

Dr. Robbins says the latest testing shows a jump in COVID positives: 8.3 percent from tests over the past two days compared to an average of 2.6 positive over many more tests done in the past few weeks. Part of the change may be more testing overall.

On campus, the University is using students and private security guards to urge students to mask up and take other virus precautions. UA has less leverage off campus but it’s taking steps like meeting with managers of student apartments.

Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr, Richard Carmona is leading what the University calls its COVID Incident Command System. Of the large student apartment complexes, he says, “We were ascertaining what their needs were and how we could help them to keep our students safe. In some cases even doing testing off-site and some of these buildings. So, we've formed partnerships, and it's working, working really well.”

Some of that communication includes student hangouts like businesses around University Boulevard.

UA’s been talking with fraternities and sororities like Alpha Phi where several sorority members tested positive.

And Dr. Robbins says the University’s getting tips about who’s organizing big parties and will do what it can to make sure no one’s breaking city and county ordinances that forbid large gatherings.