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UArizona raises in-person class cap amid concerns about COVID variant

(Twitter Photo/@uarizona)

PHOENIX – Amid concerns about a more transmissible COVID-19 variant reaching the Tucson campus, the University of Arizona welcomed more students for in-person classes on Monday.

The university moved into Stage 3 of its COVID-19 plan, meaning classes of up to 100 students can meet in person.

The school had been in Stage 2, with in-person classes capped at 50 students, since Feb. 22. The decision to move into Stage 3 was announced two weeks ago.

Event limits — 25 people for indoor and 50 for outdoor — are the same for Stages 2 and 3.

UArizona President Robert C. Robbins emphasized the importance of vaccines, regular testing and contact tracing after the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, was detected last week.

“Those variants that are more transmissible are more likely to become prevalent in our communities, but the vaccines do work,” he said during Monday’s weekly press briefing.

“The sooner we can all be vaccinated, the better.”

The COVID-19 mass vaccination site located at the Tucson campus and operated by the Arizona Department of Health Services surpassed 100,000 doses administered over the weekend.

“The volunteers, the faculty, the staff, the students at the University of Arizona have come together in an incredible show of collaboration [and] cooperation in fulfilling our land-grant mission to administer 102,000 doses of this vaccine,” Robbins said.

“That is truly remarkable, and I will always remember this and be eternally grateful.”

Students who come to campus and aren’t fully vaccinated (at least two weeks removed from their completed series) are subject to weekly testing.

“Please, if you’re among the groups that are required to test weekly, keep your appointments,” Robbins said. “If we do not know of new cases on campus, we can’t isolate them. … This will make it more difficult to continue in Stage 3.”

Earlier this month, the university said it aims to hold in-person commencement ceremonies in May and then offer most classes fully in person when the fall semester starts in August.

While there won’t be a university-wide graduation ceremony like in years past, the school is looking at a series of smaller events tentatively scheduled for May 11-18 at Arizona Stadium.

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For Arizona vaccine information, visit azdhs.gov/findvaccine.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

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