Update on University Public Health Measures
To the University Community:
We write today to pass along the good news that we are easing most of the temporary restrictions we put in place 10 days ago. We are grateful for your efforts.
After 10 days of enhanced public health measures, we are seeing a measurable decline in the number of positive COVID cases and in the positivity rate. On the first full day of our new public health measures, we registered 229 new cases, our highest total of the year by far. Yesterday we saw just 26 new cases. Similarly, our seven-day average positivity rate has dropped from a high of 4.41 percent positivity to 2.19 percent across our community.
In response to these positive trends, University leaders consulted with a team of public health experts led by Dr. Costi Sifri, the Director of Hospital Epidemiology at UVA Health, and Dr. Mitch Rosner, the Henry Mulholland Professor of Medicine and chair of the University of Virginia Department of Medicine. Following their advice, we are ready to ease some restrictions, with a couple of significant conditions that we will address below.
- Effective immediately, the University gathering policy will return to a limit of 6 individuals – with a strong emphasis on encouraging people to stick to “pods” or “bubbles.” We will also continue to limit indoor dining to groups of 2 (including in dining halls), given that dining indoors with larger groups has been a significant source of transmission. Additional guidance on these changes is below.
- Effective immediately, policies requiring students to remain in their residences except for specific purposes have been lifted. Students are free to resume normal activity, while observing all health and safety guidelines.
- Effective tomorrow, Feb. 27 at 10 a.m., University IM-Rec facilities will reopen with the same modified operational status they had in place at the beginning of the semester. University libraries will also open under conditions similar to those that were in place at the beginning of the semester.
- Out of concern for spreading the virus into the community, we will maintain the current limitation on volunteer activity until further notice, with one exception. Students who volunteer as Emergency Medical Technicians or firefighters and who have been vaccinatedcan resume their volunteer activities.
- All other University health and safety guidelines, including restrictions on visitors and travel, remain in effect.
These changes are good news, and a clear indication of how seriously members of our community, particularly our students, are taking the enhanced public health measures. We are grateful for your effort and your sacrifices in this important moment for our University. However, it would be a mistake to interpret them as a sign that we are out of the woods.
The only thing preventing another spike in cases and a return to more restrictive measures is our commitment, as a community and as individuals, to remain vigilant and faithfully follow the public health measures we have in place.
As for the dining restrictions and sticking to pods or bubbles: This virus exploits small mistakes. Many of the cases that led to the spike started with minor lapses like 2 or 3 people removing their masks to eat together in a dorm room or off-Grounds residence. Contact tracing has identified indoor dining as a higher-risk activity, which is why we are setting the group limit for indoor dining at 2. For those who eat outside, the limit is 6, provided you can do that and physically distance yourselves.
We are strongly encouraging you to stick to pods or bubbles as much as possible. Drs. Sifri and Rosner believe this may be among the most important things we can do as a community to keep COVID at bay. Socializing with a small group of people and limiting contact with people outside that group reduces the spread of the virus. Bouncing from one group of 6 to another puts people in both groups at risk.
We know this period has been really difficult, particularly for our students. But the sacrifices you’ve made over the past 10 days are making our community safer. We have demonstrated the ability to do the right things to limit the spread of the virus. If we stay on this path and case counts continue to fall, it will soon be safe to further increase the size of gatherings so that we can all have the most rewarding semester possible together on Grounds.
Thank you for your patience through this challenging period and for doing your part to get our semester back on track.
Executive Vice President and Provost
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Dr. K. Craig Kent
Executive Vice President for Health Affairs