During his weekly press conference this afternoon, Gov. Doug Ducey called the three public universities Arizona’s secret weapon in the battle against COVID-19 and announced that the State of Arizona is providing $8 million to Northern Arizona University, ASU and UArizona in support of additional testing, surveillance and other COVID-19 response efforts.
The governor also noted that NAU’s Center for Health Equity Research has been embedded with the Coconino County monitoring team helping to investigate and contact trace COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic and that NAU’s information Technology Services team has installed drive-up Wi-Fi stations available across the state to help students remain connected.
President Rita Cheng attended the press conference to share additional work at NAU and highlighted NAU’s expanded testing program as well as the work of Regents’ Professor Paul Keim to lead the Arizona COVID-19 Genomics Union, a collaboration between NAU, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), ASU and UArizona, in tracking strains of COVID-19.
NAU’s efforts to rigorously test, trace, isolate and quarantine is supported by an extensive partnership with Coconino County that includes a recent agreement to hire seven new positions at NAU to perform contact investigating. Testing will remain key to the university’s ability to slow the spread of COVID-19, supported by contact tracing to quickly identify cases to isolate or quarantine.
“I want to personally thank Gov. Ducey for his leadership and for demonstrating his support for the important work at our university,” Cheng said. “This investment will pay tremendous dividends in support of northern Arizona and throughout our state. I also want to recognize our partnership with Coconino County and am thankful that Gov. Ducey recognized these critical efforts as well.”
“We echo the appreciation voiced by NAU for Gov. Ducey’s distribution of funding for COVID-19 response efforts,” Coconino County manager James Jayne said. “Coconino County and NAU have collaborated in our testing and contact tracing capabilities to help quickly identify and trace COVID-19 positive cases within our communities. These efforts are extremely important but are also costly, and direct financial support is of the utmost importance in ensuring they are sustained.”
The health and safety of the NAU campus community and communities in Coconino County, including Flagstaff, are paramount, and NAU is committed to continue its aggressive testing, tracing, isolating and quarantining efforts. Local and statewide health experts, including TGen co-director David Engelthaler, support NAU’s extensive testing.
“NAU’s comprehensive screening and testing program provides useful intel on the virus across the NAU campus,” Engelthaler said. “We have to understand that they are finding positives that may be occurring, and most of these are in healthy asymptomatic students. Normally, we don’t have such valuable information. More testing means more info for NAU and the surrounding community.”
NAU also is reinforcing its expectations of students to adhere to health and safety protocols.
“Contributing to a safe learning environment, includes public health practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Keim said. “If our students are going to maximize their potential and education, we are enforcing safe practices like wearing masks, physical distancing, hygiene and definitely no large gatherings.”
NAU is asking for the community’s help by reporting anyone affiliated with NAU who is not following these health and safety mandates. Reporting can be done through this online form.
(928) 853-6287 | Kimberly.Ott@nau.edu