Omicron Evaluation, Spring Semester, Encouraging Boosters
To the University Community:
We are writing today to provide updates on the University’s public health approach for the upcoming spring semester, as well as our public health experts’ ongoing evaluation of the new omicron variant.
Before we do that however, we would like to thank you for making this semester a success. We have been able to do and experience things together this fall that would have been unimaginable this time last year, from returning to full capacity learning in the classroom, to attending UVA football games and arts performances, to socializing together after class and on the weekends.
Our return to a much more normal experience would not have been possible without the incredible efforts of UVA students, faculty, and staff, who did the right things by getting vaccinated, following our indoor mask policy, and getting tested when they were feeling ill. We would also like to offer special recognition to the many people who worked so hard guiding the University’s public health response this semester, including our team of expert advisers, the world-class staff at UVA Health, Student Health and Wellness, and Employee Health, and the many other members of this community who took on added responsibilities to make a safe and successful semester possible.
Your efforts, within our community and in the Charlottesville/Albemarle region overall, embody what we mean when we talk about making UVA an institution that is great and good.
Please take a moment and review the important information below.
Monitoring Omicron and Encouraging Booster Shots
Like many of you, we have watched with concern the news about the new omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. At this time, scientists here at UVA and around the world simply don’t have enough data about this new variant to make informed decisions about how to respond to it. As our understanding grows, we will evaluate whether any changes to our public health approach are necessary and inform you as soon as possible.
In the meantime, the best approach for all of us is to get vaccinated, get tested and stay away from others if we are feeling symptomatic, and continue to wear our masks indoors when we are around others.
We also urge everyone who is over 18 and at least six months past their primary vaccination date if they received Moderna or Pfizer, or two months past their vaccination date if they received Johnson & Johnson, to get a booster as soon as possible. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers more information about booster shots here. For information about scheduling your vaccination or booster in this region, click here.
In addition to omicron, it is important to remember that flu season is also beginning. Please get your flu shot as soon as you can. Student Health and Wellness has resources for students considering their flu shot. UVA Employees can find more information from Employee Health here.
Wrapping up Fall 2021 Safely and Preparing for the Spring
As classes for this semester come to an end and the exam period begins, we urge all of you to finish this semester strong by continuing to follow UVA public health policies closely. Wear your masks when indoors, gather outside whenever possible, and do not come to class or work if you are feeling ill.
For the many people who are planning to travel during the winter break, Student Affairs has developed a helpful resource for how to get to your destination and back while keeping yourself and others healthy and safe.
When you return next spring, we expect many elements of life at UVA to be similar to those we all experienced this semester. Classes will be fully in-person, and UVA Dine, IM-Rec, and other University facilities will be operating at full capacity. Sporting events and arts performances will take place with spectators in the seats.
The pandemic will still be with us, so it will still be necessary to take some precautions in order to limit the spread of the virus. Our vaccination requirements will remain in place and those who have valid exemptions will still be required to appear for testing as they have this semester. Unvaccinated students will be required to demonstrate a negative COVID-19 test before returning to Grounds at the start of the spring semester. More information on how to share that negative test will be available soon.
As always, we will monitor the progression of the pandemic closely and adjust our plans if public health conditions warrant, but we are always striving to strike the right balance between keeping people safe and offering our community members as much flexibility as possible.
Because of the uncertainty regarding the new variant, we are not yet in a position to make a decision about how we will approach our current policy requiring masks to be worn indoors unless you are in your residence or actively eating and drinking. Over the break, we will evaluate public health trends, including the progression of the omicron variant, and provide you with an update on our public health measures no later than Jan. 15.
We hope you are enjoying the final stretch of this semester and preparing for a safe and restful winter break. We cannot adequately express our gratitude for the way in which you have responded to this pandemic, allowing our University to continue doing the things we do best while keeping each other healthy and safe. Thank you, and happy holidays.
Chief Operating Officer