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UA Enhancing COVID-19 Testing Efforts, Requirements For Students This Spring Semester

University of Arizona students who are living in the dorms or attending in-person classes in the spring semester can expect to get tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis, said University President Robert Robbins in his weekly press conference on Monday. 

In addition, any student who needs to access on-campus services, such as the library or the Student Recreation Center, will be expected to get tested a week prior, Robbins said. 

Previously, COVID-19 testing was only required for students living in the dorms prior to move-in though optional testing has been available for students throughout the fall semester. 

Testing compliance will be managed through the university’s Wi-Fi network, Robbins said. 

"Students who do not fulfill testing requirements and expectations will not have access until they comply with testing or receive an approved exemption," he said. 

The university is planning a COVID testing blitz from Jan. 6-12 that will feature a new type of test that doesn’t require a nasal swab. Instead, individuals will swish and gargle sterile saltwater in their mouths for under a minute and spit the liquid into a specimen cup for testing. 

Michael Worobey, head of the university's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a member of its BIO5 Institute, said not only is the test more comfortable than the deep-in-the-nose nasopharyngeal swab normally used in PCR tests, it also appears to be more effective.

"I think this is going to become the new gold standard for how to test for this virus," he said.

COVID-19 Vaccines

With distribution of vaccines against COVID-19 now in sight, Robbins said he’s discussing requiring them for students and employees. 

“I would like to us mandate that we all get this vaccine in order to come on campus," he said. 

The university would need to get approval from its attorneys to institute such a mandate, Robbins said. He expects the university would make exceptions for medical and religious reasons.

Rocio Hernandez was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2022.