As you know, the University has been monitoring a troubling rise in COVID-19 cases within our student community, as well as the arrival of a new, more contagious variant.
Since we communicated those concerns on Friday, we have seen an additional—and unusually large—increase in positive cases, spread widely both on and off Grounds. Our in-house analysis indicates that this spread is not directly related to variants but instead to transmission of the original strain of the virus, which can occur when individuals are not closely following health and safety protocols.
As a result, today we are implementing additional health and safety restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 within our community. These measures will take effect today, and University leaders will consider lifting them on Friday, February 26, if conditions around the virus permit.
We know that the temporary steps outlined below will be difficult for members of this community, particularly our students. That said, in light of the rapid growth in cases we have seen over the past week, we believe they are essential to preserving our isolation and quarantine space and reducing the risk of spreading cases into the Charlottesville/Albemarle community.
Here are the changes we are making to our operations to stop the spread of COVID-19 within our community:
All in-person events and gatherings, on and off Grounds, as defined in Policy SEC-045, are prohibited and should be moved online. These restrictions take effect at 7:00 p.m. today. We recognize that many of you already have plans this evening; please either cancel them or move them online.
This includes social gatherings, club and organization functions, and other in-person interactions that do not meet the exclusions set forth in SEC-045.
In-person classes will continue, with additional measures enacted to limit congregation in common spaces before and after classes.
Research activities will continue, with any modifications determined by the Vice President of Research and the Provost.
On-Grounds students may leave their residence halls for essential activities such as:
Attending an in-person class
Eating at, or picking up a meal from, dining halls or other locations on Grounds
Engaging in an individual outdoor activity, such as running or walking
Complying with ongoing prevalence testing requirements, receiving a symptomatic COVID-19 test, or other medical care
Going to an on- or off-Grounds job, excluding volunteer activities, not impacted by these modified restrictions
Picking up mail at the mailroom
Going to the Bookstore for essential personal items
Off-Grounds students are encouraged to remain at home and limit contact with individuals outside of their living arrangement. Off-Grounds students may only come to Grounds to:
Attend an in-person class
Eat at, or pick up meals from, dining halls if they have a meal plan
Comply with ongoing prevalence testing requirements, receive a symptomatic COVID-19 test, or other medical care
Go to an on-Grounds job not impacted by these modified restrictions
Recreational facilities will close at their planned times this evening and remain closed during this period.
Libraries will close at their planned times this evening, with operations moving to contactless pickup during this period.
Dining facilities will remain open and grab-and-go options will remain available. In-person seating will be restricted to no more than 2 people dining together.
Telework is strongly encouraged for as many employees as possible.
For staff and students who work in areas that are closed due to the short-term measures and who are unable to work remotely, please be assured that employment status and pay will not be interrupted.
This temporary plan is designed to limit opportunities for the virus to spread between people. We are preserving masked, safely distanced in-person classes because teaching is a core part of the mission of our University, and we have not seen evidence of viral transmission in classroom settings. Our approach to dining will offer students an opportunity to eat safely with one other person, or to grab food and eat at home or in another setting in concurrence with our gathering policy.
We do not take these actions lightly, but they are necessary at a time when the virus is more widespread, and it appears members of our community are not adhering to our health and safety protocols as consistently as they did last semester.
By shifting to these temporary restrictions now, we can reduce prevalence of the virus around us and renew our focus on simple behaviors like wearing masks, avoiding large groups, and staying 6 feet apart.
If conditions improve as we expect, we will lift these restrictions and return to the plan with which we started the semester. In the event we continue to see a rise in cases, we will be forced to consider additional measures, including moving all undergraduate classes online and considering the same for graduate and professional schools.
If this announcement, or coping with the pandemic overall, is making you feel anxious, isolated, or depressed, please make use of the resources UVA offers students and employees to help members of this community care for their mental health.
A special note to our students: we know you are tired of fighting the pandemic, and we share your COVID-fatigue. We know these restrictions will be difficult. We assure you that we are taking these steps solely out of concern for protecting the health and safety of our community. This is crunch time. If individual members of this community take this seriously for the next 10 days, we will see a decline in cases and a return to a more “normal” spring semester. The alternative is additional consequences, not only for the type of semester we have as a university, but potentially for the health and safety of the people who live, learn, and work at and around UVA.
Thank you in advance for your help in getting our semester back on track.
Jim Ryan President
Liz Magill Executive Vice President and Provost
J.J. Davis Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Dr. K. Craig Kent Executive Vice President for Health Affairs