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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


University status update: Employee vaccination deadline extended to Jan. 17, COVID-19 cases rise by 40% in Arizona

Sean Meixner
Screenshot taken on Monday, Nov. 15, of the virtual university status update team, with special guest Dean of Students Kendall Washington-White. The team discussed public health measures and statistics, as well as announced that the mandate for all UA employees to get vaccinated has been extended to Jan. 17.

The University of Arizona’s virtual status update team met on Monday, Nov. 15, to discuss the COVID-19 health situation at the school and announce that the deadline for university employees to get vaccinated has been extended to Jan. 17. The team was joined by Dean of Students and Vice Provost of Campus Life Kendal Washington White, who discussed mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins opened the meeting by noting an 11% nationwide increase in COVID-19 cases over the past 14 days.

“We now have a seven-day rolling average of 24 new cases per 100,000 people. Arizona has seen a 40% increase in new cases over that same period, with 49 daily new cases per 100,000,” Robbins said. “So in Arizona compared to the rest of the country, we’re almost twice as high in new cases.

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Robbins also mentioned that hospitalization rates are rising due to COVID-19 in Pima county.

“I know we all want to put this pandemic behind us, but we’re definitely not out of the woods yet,” Robbins said. “If we do not do the right things, the cost could be enormous.”

As in previous status updates, Robbins strongly encouraged individuals to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and to continue to wear face coverings and social distance to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Robbins then handed the floor to Dr. Richard Carmona, 17th Surgeon General of the United States and distinguished professor at the UA, to discuss case rates and the public health situation at the UA.

“In our United States we have had 784,000 deaths,” Carmona said. “We’ve had 48 million infections. … Our nursing staff are being decimated, our technicians, our respiratory therapists, our physicians, they have been in combat for almost two years now, with an invisible foe. Think about not being able to go home and hug your kids until you shower and dispose of the clothes that you were wearing during the day. Think about the stresses this has brought on, but yet, our university community has risen up, and handled this very well.”

The university has had 113 positive COVID-19 tests in the past 10 days, out of 5,774 tests, with a positivity rate of 2%.

The rate of transmission as of Oct. 28 was 1.56 for the UA and 1.29 for Pima County.

Carmona also encouraged individuals to contact the UA COVID-19 Ambassador Team Hotline if they have any questions about COVID-19 or the vaccine.

Carmona closed his segment by citing his frustration with individuals who have been harassing UA employees at sports events for enforcing masking protocols.

Robbins compared this to the situation on many airlines throughout the U.S., where disgruntled passengers have been harassing flight attendants for enforcing COVID-19 safety protocols, and stated that the UA will stand by its employees who are trying to keep everyone safe.

“It’s absolutely disgusting and will not be tolerated,” Robbins said.

White then took the floor to discuss the mental health situation at the UA in the age of COVID-19. She cited the increased numbers of students utilizing services provided by Counseling and Psych Services due to the pandemic, stating that many students were facing stress and social anxiety due to the social isolation created by the pandemic.

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White mentioned the success of the recent temporary swing installation and hinted at an upcoming see-saw installation. Robbins expressed his sorrow at the removal of the swings and stated that he may work to make them a permanent fixture of campus.

A free Thanksgiving grab-and-go dinner was also announced for students who will not be going home for Thanksgiving.

During the Q&A portion of the briefing, Robbins stated that a return to online learning was potentially on the table if cases continued to rise. Robbins also addressed the staff vaccination rates at the UA, with 75% of staff (including student workers) being vaccinated for COVID-19. Robbins did express concern that some employees will choose not to get vaccinated by the deadline, which has been moved to Jan. 17.

“We don’t want anyone to be put on a paid leave of absence,” Robbins said.

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