COVID-19 test site targets UArizona students living in off-campus high-rises, complexes

Updated: Aug. 28, 2020 at 6:49 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Concerns over the spread of COVID- 19 just steps from the University of Arizona campus continue.

As of Friday, August 28, UArizona reported 54 positive test results through the Reentry ’”Test All, Test Smart” program.

While a test was required for students to move into dorms, it’s only voluntary for students living in high-rises, houses and apartment complexes that surround campus.

“I’m worried about the high rises,” UArizona President Dr. Robert Robbins said during his weekly press briefing.

“We don’t really have authority there, other than the authority of persuasion,” said Dr. Richard Carmona, Director of the UArizona Reentry Task Force, during the same conversation.

Will the power of persuasion be enough during a pandemic? Neither the University of Arizona nor the Pima County Health Department have direct authority over actions taken on private property, like the several student housing high-rises off Speedway Boulevard near Tyndall Avenue.

“They can’t require them to test, they strongly recommend they test and I think that’s the group many of us are concerned about, because it’s an unknown,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, Director of the Pima County Health Department.

“It is a huge red flag,” said Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik. “The reality is that we’ve got about 2,000 students right now who are living immediately in the same rooms as each other right off of campus.”

Kozachik said he’s met with management of five high-rises off Speedway Blvd. He had hoped to hear a plan was in place for the hundreds of students who have moved into the buildings, but instead her didn’t hear many health or safety protocols.

“Every one of them is operating between 75- and 85-percent capacity and still taking reservations for leases,” said Kozachik. “None of them have a testing protocol in place. None of them are doing wellness checks at the door.”

He said gyms and pools at the buildings or complexes appear to be open. KOLD News 13 saw what looked to be residents in a gym on the ground for of one of the buildings prior to the county reaching the ’moderate’ level to reopen.

Dr. Cullen said a setting like an apartment complex could be where a “super spreader” event could start. “It doesn’t take a thousand people,” she said, just about ten to twenty people in the same space who carry the virus.

To ease concerns, Kozachik organized a pop-up testing site just steps from several of the buildings. The saliva tests will be free to anyone and Rescue Me Wellness, the company administering the tests, will contact students within 48 hours with the results.

- Friday, Aug. 28 & Saturday, Aug. 29

- Parking lot of the Islamic Center of Tucson, off Speedway Blvd. & Tyndall Ave.

The testing is funded through Pima County CARES Act money.

“This is asking the students to be part of the solution so we can get our arms around community spread,” said Kozachik.

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