UA Starting Spring Semester With Mostly Virtual Classes For Now

Published: Tuesday, January 5, 2021 - 1:53pm

University of Arizona students will begin classes for the spring semester next Wednesday in Phase 1, university officials announced in a Tuesday media briefing. That means only about 3,900 students out of the university's 46,000 students will be attending classes that have been deemed essential in person. All other classes will be conducted virtually for now.

Employees are recommended to work from home, said University President Robert Robbins. 

“We have to remain vigilant and resilient and I think that if you can work from home, we want you to do that until we can get through this semester," he said. "Getting through this semester, even with the vaccine rolling out, we'll have to follow the same playbook we did in the fall semester for the spring semester and then hopefully for next fall semester, we'll be back to more like normal."

The university is asking that students who are returning to campus from outside Pima County quarantine for seven days and get tested when they arrive per CDC guidelines. This includes students who test negative. These students should only leave their homes to attend work or essential classes, or get food, medication, and care for family, Robbins said.

The university is holding a testing blitz starting Wednesday through next Tuesday in preparation for the spring semester. Students who live on campus or attend in-person classes will be expected to get tested on a weekly basis. Public health faculty advisors will recommend targets for compliance on testing, Robbins said. 

“We will offer rewards to encourage high testing rates," he said. "If testing rates follow below this recommended level, compliance will be managed through access to university’s campus-based Wi-Fi network."

UA has capacity for 3,000 test per day, almost triple its capacity from the fall, Robbins added. 

The university will need to see the curve flatten before it can expand in-person classes in Stage 2 and beyond, Robbins said. The university will work close with its public health advisers and state, county and city officials to make those decisions, and Robbins said the university will be transparent and give people plenty of notice before moving to another stage. He did not say whether the university is basing its decisions on any COVID-19 metrics. 

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