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New task force created to prepare for fall semester

Sam Burdette

Dr. Richard Carmona (right) and President Dr. Robert C. Robbins (left) at a press conference on Wednesday, May 20, where the new Reentry Task Force was announced.

University of Arizona President Dr. Robert C. Robbins announced at a press conference Wednesday, May 20, a new Reentry Task Force, which would help prepare for the reopening of the UA campus in fall 2020.

The task force will be led by former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, who now works as a professor at the UA in the College of Public Health. 

“We need an incident command system,” Carmona said, recounting a conversation he had with Robbins before the task force’s creation. “There’s a lot of smart people here, but what we really need is an organizational structure that allows us to do this quickly and is tested and proven.”

RELATED:  UA President Robbins announces in-person classes fall 2020

Carmona described an incident command system as a group of leaders with differing areas of expertise to aggregate the data available and come up with solutions based on that data.

“The incident command system is meant to bring together diverse populations of subject matter experts that are needed to solve a complex problem,” Carmona said.

The specific group of people Carmona is putting together will work to determine to what extent the campus can reopen and come up with solutions to problems that may arise during the campus’ reopening.

“I have two parallel paths,” Carmona said, “one looking and working with all of the infrastructure of the university to make sure it’s ready to receive … students and faculty and the other path with the scientists.”

Robbins also spoke of the importance of engaging students so they will educate one another on the importance of social distancing and other health precautions.

Carmona and Robbins also discussed the UA’s place in Tucson and how its opening will affect the surrounding city.

“I’ve already had discussions with one of our faculty members, Dr. Francisco Garcia, who happens to be the health leader in the county … as well as with the mayor this past week,” Carmona said. “We are going to be looking to convene a meeting between the county and the city with the university to see about testing protocols and tracing that can be used regionally.”

Carmona said he hoped the university, city and county could together create a “uniform process” to show people that “everybody is working together to protect them.”

As of now, it is still unclear exactly how classes will function in the fall 2020 semester, although it will likely be “some sort of hybrid approach,” according to Robbins.

RELATED:  Working a reopening on Main Gate Square

“Clearly it will not be the same as it was before spring break in March,” Robbins said of the fall semester.

As discussions continue about the return of in-person classes, Carmona said the emphasis has been and will continue to be on the safety of those returning to the university campus.

“We’re not going to open unless it’s safe,” Carmona said.

Robbins and Carmona also announced that there will be weekly press conferences to update the public on the work the task force is doing and the status of class sessions in fall.

“On a weekly basis, we’re going to have a press conference because we’re going to do 100 percent transparency,” Carmona said. “We’re going to keep you informed every step of the way.”

The full press conference is available via the UA’s YouTube channel.

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