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UArizona president says COVID-19 surge could delay on-campus plans

(Facebook Photo/The University of Arizona)

PHOENIX (AP) — As Arizona’s surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continued Thursday, the University of Arizona’s president cast doubt that the campus in Tucson would reopen in late August as planned.

Robert Robbins said the increases in cases and hospitalizations in the state were “alarming” and that officials would continue to carefully monitor conditions before making a decision “with great deliberation” on whether students would return to campus in August.

Robbins said he’d feel comfortable reopening on Aug. 24 if use of face coverings, social distancing and staying at home flattens the virus’ growth curve.

“But if I had to say today would we would reopen, no, because … the ICUs are full,” he said. “We cannot have a situation where we’re bringing students back to campus, asking our faculty and staff to come back to campus when we’re in truly an exponential growth of the number of cases here.”

Arizona has become a national hot spot for the coronavirus since lifted stay-home restrictions in May.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey last week allowed counties and municipalities to require people to wear face coverings in public, and many have done so, including local governments in metro Phoenix and Tucson.

The state Department of Health Services reported that a record 2,453 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, including 611 in intensive care beds and a record 415 on ventilators.

Health officials have attributed Arizona’s rising number of cases to both increased testing and community spread of the disease.

The health department reported 3,056 additional COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the fourth day in a week in which the state had daily increases of over 3,000 cases.

The additional cases raised the statewide total to 63,030 with 1,490 deaths, including 27 reported Thursday.

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