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UUNA's Position on Health During the COVID crisis

Northern Arizona University must not reopen in person in the midst of an increased pandemic wave. 

There have been a total of 91,858 reported cases of COVID-19 in Arizona and 1788 deaths as of July 3, 2020. On July 3rd alone there were over 4,000 new cases and 31 deaths--that is over 4000 new cases and 31 deaths in 24 hours. Arizona has reached a record high rate of hospitalizations and ICU beds are at 91 percent capacity. As of July 7, the positive test rate in Arizona is 25.5 percent—the highest in the nation, and double that of any other state experiencing a comparable outbreak (Source: Covid Act Now).

Opening NAU’s Flagstaff Mountain Campus—classrooms, housing, and dining—to over 20,000 undergraduate students in this context is irresponsible public stewardship. The University Union of Northern Arizona, in Association the the American Federation of Teachers (UUNA-AFT) calls on the Administration of Northern Arizona University and the Arizona Board of Regents to reopen primarily online and hold off on returning to full in person residency and instruction until a reliable system of testing and tracing is established or a reliable vaccine is readily available. Free, regular testing must be equally available to symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. It is estimated that 25-50% of COVID-19 infected individuals are asymptomatic. Free, asymptomatic testing allows for thorough and effective contact tracing protocols. (Graph from Center for Health and Equity Research at NAU)

If NAU opens to full residential capacity this fall, in the context of the current pandemic, faculty, staff, and graduate student workers need the right to decide their work modalities based on their individual and family health needs. 

All faculty should individually decide the modalities for teaching classes, attending meetings, and holding office hours. Staff, faculty, and graduate student workers should also individually decide whether they will fulfill their work duties remotely or in-person. Further, no employees of the University should be forced to reveal personal and private health information that informs those individual decisions. The decisions made by employees to protect their health or the health of their family members should be free of repercussions from University Administration. 

Claims made by NAU Administration that meeting these demands will result in further cuts or financial deficits demonstrate deflection of responsibility and disinterest in creative and moral action. Moving forward as NAU Administration has currently planned will have catastrophic consequences for the health of everyone connected to NAU—students, their families, faculty, staff, and all of the communities of which we are a part. We must do better.

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