Newsletter: UK variant, mask guidance, restricted operations
In This Email:
Rising cases and new variants in our community demand increased vigilance.
Due to concerning trends, the gathering limit will remain at 6.
University leaders are considering additional restrictions if trends persist or worsen.
Individual behavior can drive cases down and result in reduced restrictions.
As we anticipated this semester, we have confirmed that there are cases of the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant, also known as the UK variant, in our community. The primary difference between this variant, which is now present in 37 states, and the original strain of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is that the UK variant is more contagious. We are also experiencing a troubling rise in positive cases in our student community, distributed widely between on-Grounds and off-Grounds residents.
These are concerning developments, but we believe we are capable of managing them as an institution and as individual members of this community.
As an institution, we are enhancing our health and safety plans in several important ways.
We continue to expand our saliva testing program for students, faculty, and staff to help us limit viral spread. We have also begun mandatory retesting of students who live in residence halls and off-Grounds locations where we’ve seen a rise in cases in an effort to identify cases that may arise in between regular prevalence testing days.
The University has purchased tens of thousands of three-ply masks for all community members to use, especially those whose work or studies put them in settings where they will interact with other people. This week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended doubling up on cloth masks, using a mask with a pocket for an added filter, or wearing a higher-quality disposable mask with multiple layers. Additional information about how to follow this guidance and where to pick up three-ply masks is in last week’s Spring 2021 Update.
We have also decided to keep the limit on gatherings at 6 until conditions improve. If cases continue to increase, our isolation and quarantine capacity will become strained and we will be forced to consider stricter measures, including a shift to Short-Term Restricted Operations, which would include moving all undergraduate classes, meetings, and gatherings online, school-level decisions to modify graduate and professional programs, as well as limitations on students’ ability to travel on- and off-Grounds.
The good news is, we have the ability, as individual members of this community, to reverse these trends and keep our semester on track by following the same protocols that were so effective last semester.
Now, more than ever: Wear your mask; stay home when you’re sick and – please – if you have any symptoms of the virus, immediately get tested at student health or employee health; stay at least 6 feet apart from others at all times; do not gather in groups of more than 6, even if you are wearing masks and practicing physical distancing.
Comply with all prevalence testing requirements, no matter what.
The recipe for success remains simple and easy to follow – but increased viral prevalence and more contagious variants mean the margin for error is narrower.
Everyone at UVA is working hard to keep members of this community safe and to make this semester as rich and rewarding as possible. If we are going to stay on track, we need your help. Thank you for doing your part for all of us.
Liz Magill Provost
J.J. Davis Chief Operating Officer
Dr. Mitch Rosner Chair, Department of Medicine
PUBLIC HEALTH MEASURES
University Gathering Limit to Remain in Place
In response to rising case counts within the UVA community, University leaders have decided to extend the 6-person limit on gatherings until further notice. More information on University health and safety requirements is available on the University’s Coronavirus Informationwebsite.
Potential Additional Responses to Rising Case Counts
As mentioned above, University leaders are actively considering additional measures to take in the event that case counts continue to rise, including a shift to Short Term Restricted Operations (STRO). You can read more about STRO in UVA Today.
COVID Tracker 3.0
UVA’s COVID Trackerhas been updated and features new data and visualizations.
Reminder: Test Immediately If You Are Symptomatic
Individuals who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should contact Student Health and Wellness (SHW) or Employee Health to schedule a symptomatic test right away. Do not wait for your next scheduled prevalence (saliva) testing appointment or risk infecting others by going to the test site.
Exposure Call Center: Help When You Suspect Exposure
Students who believe they may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should contact the SHW Exposure Call Center at (434) 924-5362, option 2. Employees should contact Employee Health.
Weekly Prevalence Testing: Mandatory for Students
All students in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area must go to prevalence (saliva) testing once a week (unless symptomatic). Students already have appointments set up in Time2Test, but they can make changes in the case of unavoidable conflicts.
Failure to test weekly will result in consequences, ranging in severity from a warning to interim suspension.
OPERATIONS AND HR
Updated Faculty, Staff Procedures for Testing and Notification
The University has updated its testing procedures and notifications for when an Academic Division employee is suspected of having COVID-19 or self-reports as having COVID-19. You can review the new procedures here(behind NetBadge).
Take advantage of the many (mostly free) events on UVA’s first RECess dayFeb. 17: Group Fitness classes, Poker Walk, Laser Tag, Grocery Bingo and more. Check out the IM-Rec website for more information on how to get involved and active this semester.