This week’s edition of the University of Virginia “Return to Grounds Update” is devoted to the University’s highest priority: Keeping our students, faculty, staff, and Charlottesville neighbors healthy and safe.
As we have seen over the past few weeks, the virus that causes COVID-19 is unforgiving and takes hold in communities where vigilance around public health measures begins to falter. The plan we share today is comprehensive, but its message is simple: Tackling COVID-19 is a challenge, but we will have a successful return to Grounds if we pull together and take the individual steps necessary to keep ourselves and the people around us safe.
This plan is the product of months of work by University experts in medicine and public health, and it reflects the latest state and federal guidance for higher education. We also worked closely with representatives from the faculty, staff, and student communities, as well as the Virginia Department of Health and local community leaders.
Here are a few highlights about our health and safety plan, with details and links in the subject headings below to more information on the UVA Return to Grounds website and student hub. You can find a printable version of the whole plan here.
The University has developed a comprehensive testing plan for students, faculty, staff, and contract employees. It includes mandatory testing for all graduate and undergraduate students who will be on Grounds and significant voluntary testing resources for University employees and contractors. We are also continuing to assist the Virginia Department of Health with community testing in Charlottesville and the surrounding area.
Our plan includes details about our symptom tracking app, the distribution of personal protective equipment, changes we are making to spaces all over Grounds, and updates regarding isolation and contact tracing in the event of positive cases.
As useful as these steps are, we want to emphasize two aspects of this plan that will determine our success. First, we will all have a responsibility to comply with public health measures that prevent the spread of COVID-19. The science is clear – widespread wearing of masks, physical distancing, regular handwashing, and staying home if you are feeling ill are the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Every member of the UVA community will be accountable for following these practices both on and off Grounds.
Second, the success of our plan relies on your cooperation so that we, in concert with the Virginia Department of Health, can rapidly respond to any positive case of COVID-19 in our UVA community, advise those infected to seek medical attention and self-isolate, and notify those exposed to quarantine themselves.
In the coming weeks we will provide additional updates on our expectations for students, faculty, and staff. This plan will only work if we commit, together, to act in the best interests of the people around us. That’s what President Ryan means when he talks about being a good and great University and that’s the standard we believe this community will meet as we make our Return to Grounds a success.
Liz Magill Provost
J.J. Davis Chief Operating Officer
STUDENT HEALTH AND SAFETY
Students Strongly Encouraged to Self-Quarantine
All students intending to return to Grounds in August are strongly encouraged to self-quarantine 14 days prior to returning to Grounds. This measure protects public health by limiting exposure to individuals who may be infected with COVID-19 and can transmit the virus.
Mandatory Testing for Students Returning to Grounds
Every member of the University community who studies or works on Grounds this year will be required to adhere to policies and behaviors that protect themselves and the people around them from contracting COVID-19. Those measures include:
Daily Health Checks Through an App
All students, faculty, and staff planning to be on Grounds will complete a daily check on symptoms related to COVID-19 through the “HOOS Health Check” app or by email. Instructions for downloading “HOOS Health Check” will be provided in mid-August.
In order to promote good hygiene when soap and water are unavailable, the University will place 2,600 free-standing hand sanitizer stands in high-traffic common areas, plus an additional 1,000 one-gallon containers in spaces that don’t receive the free-standing units. Additionally, UVA Facilities Management has trained custodial staff on new enhanced cleaning protocols based on industry standards and best practice guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control to keep spaces around the University as clean and disinfected as possible.
Modified University Transit Services
All passengers on University Transit Services will be required to wear a face covering at all times. Capacity on buses will be reduced from 50 to 20 and services hours will be modified to accommodate enhanced cleaning and sanitation of vehicles.
Dining Service Changes Promote Physical Distancing
Once students and employees return to Grounds, testing for COVID-19 will occur in a number of ways to help maintain the safety of the UVA community and the surrounding Charlottesville area. Please note that this guidance is subject to change as public health conditions evolve.
Voluntary Testing Resources for Asymptomatic Individuals
UVA students, faculty, staff, and contract employees who do not exhibit symptoms but would like to be voluntarily tested will have the option to do so no more than once every 60 days, unless prior authorization is obtained from Employee Health or Student Health.
COMMUNITY SPREAD PREVENTION
Effective Contact Tracing Requires Community Engagement
If a member of the UVA community (students, faculty, or staff) is identified through contact tracing as having had close contact with an infected individual, they will be referred for testing by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) or their health care provider. Limiting the spread of the disease will require everyone in the UVA community to be ready to engage with UVA and VDH contact tracing teams.
Ongoing Resources and Procedures for Isolation and Quarantine
For Students – UVA has plans to isolate students living on Grounds who test positive for the virus, and to quarantine students living on Grounds who have been exposed to someone with a positive diagnosis of COVID-19. Students living off-Grounds will be expected to quarantine or isolate at their off-Grounds housing or at home, if they can travel safely.
Current guidance from the Virginia Department of Health on isolation and quarantine can be found here.
For much of the pandemic, UVA Health, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Health and Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, has been providing on-site testing in the community as the need arises in particular parts of the local area. Beginning in late July, UVA Health will offer community testing on a regular basis in fixed locations as well as at sites that rotate based on need. In addition, depending on need, other locations will be served, including by the mobile testing unit.