University of Arizona president lays out plan to reopen for fall classes: 'Testing, tracing and treating'

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University of Arizona president and cardiothoracic surgeon Robert Robbins joined "The Story" Thursday to outline his plan to bring back 60,000 students and staff for the fall semester amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"We would have a '3T' approach -- that would be testing, tracing, and treating our students, faculty, and staff," Robbins told host Martha MacCallum.


The University of Arizona is one of at least 167 colleges and universities that have already said that they intend to open their campus and welcome students back this fall. Robbins explained that the detailed plan to reopen the campus includes free antibody testing for students and faculty.

"We’ve developed our own antibody test that’s highly accurate," said Robbins, "[The] false-positive rate is only one in 3.5 million so we think we would have all the components to safely welcome our students back."

Robbins acknowledged that campus life would "look a lot different," in light of the pandemic.

"We would be doing things like social distancing and using electronic surveillance tracing, contact tracing," he said. "Also, we are exploring the use of wastewater-based epidemiology out of our buildings to try to identify potential hot spots before people get symptomatic ... so we’re confident that we can safely manage our students, faculty and staff through this reentry program."

Robbins explained that students who contract the virus will be sent to recover in an infirmary on school grounds, which had been closed in recent years.


"I do recommend everybody do this," he said. "The idea came to me because my son was about 2,500 miles away from home and he got severe[ly ill] with strep throat, he was a college football player and they treated him in the infirmary.

"Our campus health clinic started in the 1917 pandemic in the infirmary ... so we think it’s a great idea for those students who do get sick," Robbins said.

"Just to be clear," he emphasized, "people will get sick. But we think by and large, our undergrads and grad students are healthy and we like the idea of bringing back the infirmary."