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DIGGING DEEPER: How effective is the UArizona Wildcat WellCheck?

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TUCSON (KVOA) - As COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the country, the University of Arizona continues to head into the classroom. The college does require each student to do their own daily health screening: The Wildcat WellCheck. The check is supposed to prevent COVID-19 from spreading on the University of Arizona campus. Officials tell News 4 Tucson, it's mandatory and it works.

The Wildcat WellCheck is just one of the cards the University of Arizona is playing against the COVID-19 pandemic, according to David Salafsky. Salafsky is the co-executive director of the University of Arizona Health Services.

"It's a new way to deliver an idea that has been around for a long time, if you're sick stay home," Salafsky said.

It's an online form that asks basic questions about a person's health: Do you plan to come on campus? Do you have a fever? Do you have any symptoms of COVID-19? Have you been in close contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive?

"What I do every day is I get those reminders via text message and once I get those reminders, I'll click on them and respond to them based on my health," Salafsky said.

The University of Arizona is a public institution, which means non-students can come onto campus. The University has a WellCheck for the public.

Anna Rodgers is a freshman at the University of Arizona. Rodgers said she fills out the questionnaire every morning and said it's not only easy to fill out, but it's important.

"I think COVID-19 is a big problem, so if I can do my part, they can do theirs," Rodgers said. "I fill it out normally in the morning when I brush my teeth."

News 4 Tucson wanted to see if everyone was as responsible as Rodgers, or if they take a gamble by not filling out the Wildcat WellCheck. News 4 Tucson asked 100 students who live on campus or come onto campus at least once a week:

Q: Do you fill out the Wildcat WellCheck?

News 4 Tucson's Austin Walker, Reporter

Out of the 100 students surveyed, 14 said yes and 86 said no. We followed up with:

Q: Do you fill out the Wildcat WellCheck everyday?

News 4 Tucson's Austin Walker, Reporter

Out of the 14 previous, 6 said yes and 8 said no. Six percent of the survey fills it out every day.

Some students even took to Twitter. They said they never even heard of the Wildcat WellCheck.

News 4 Tucson took our research back to Salafsky.

"But we know there is more work to do that is getting this compliance," Salafsky said. "We are trying to think of some creative ideas to get the students do this and we are definitely open. I think it's helpful to show us how the numbers break down."

News 4 Tucson spoke to Holly Jensen, a spokesperson with the university.

"Why is the University rolling the dice and putting personal accountability on college students? Why not force a University administered check at the door, like a thermometer?

News 4 Tucson's Austin Walker, Reporter

"From the University standpoint, we kind of lost the focus on the Wildcat Well check and we prioritized the COVID-10 check since they are going to be an Alpha and a Beta test," Jensen said. "We have realized that we have not used the Wildcat WellCheck or the enforcement mechanism."

Both told News 4 Tucson, as students leave for Thanksgiving break, the university has more time to adapt and create a plan to enforce a daily heath screening.

Up Interstate-10, News 4 Tucson wanted to check if Arizona State University has any sort of morning well check. Ashley Brown is a Freshman at ASU. Brown said they do have a well check very similar to the University of Arizona's Wildcat WellCheck.

"We fill out this form every morning," Brown said. "We answer if we are going to be on campus. Then, it takes us to a screen where it asks us if we have a temperature and then asks us about our symptoms. That's about it, but we have to do it every day."

The only difference between the two checks: there are consequences if the check is not filled out every morning.

"If you forget two days in a row, you're "myasu" account gets locked," Brown said. "You then have to go in and reset your password. This is a problem because that is how you do homework, watch lectures, take notes, and other stuff."

The University of Arizona reports it handed out over 50,000 thermometers to students and staff at the beginning of the school year. Some schools across the country are administering temperature checks as a student walks into class. Jensen says the University of Arizona has thought of this.

"To be honest with you when you look at COVID what we knew before to now, people without a temperature were tested and came back positive and they were asymptomatic," Jensen said.

News 4 Tucson also took out findings to the Pima County Health Department. Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said she was surprised by our findings.

"I've never heard those numbers before but they are very concerning," Dr. Cullen said. "And my guess is that, they are very accurate."

As of 2018, students at the University of Arizona make up 12 percent of Tucson's population. Some people reached out to News 4 Tucson and said they are concerned a University of Arizona student could and will bring the virus into the community. Dr. Cullen said the University is being proactive in its efforts and the Department is working hard to curve this.

"But you know, Austin, I'll tell you, it feels like whack-a-mole," Dr. Cullen said. "We get a high rise area, we go in, we test, we identify off-campus places, and then four days later we have another are lighting up."

While there is no right way to guess what the next step is, both said the University's cars are on the table.

"We will get this mandatory and outlined," Jensen said.

"That's great feedback," Salafsky said. "It's kind of like masks, they are most effective when everyone is using them. If we can get them to do this, then we will protect them more than we are now."

The university said it's continuing to prioritize the safety of its students and staff members.

The university does not know they plan to enforce the WildCat WellCheck. It is working around the clock to create a better plan.

The university also said, News 4 Tucson's survey really painted a picture of where the problem is.

Austin Walker

Austin is a Reporter at KVOA News 4 Tucson. He graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in May of 2020.

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