CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (WFXR) — The University of Virginia (UVA) has prohibited in-person events, limited on-campus students’ reasons for leaving their dorms, limited off-campus students’ reasons for visiting campus, and more as part of the new restrictions implemented Tuesday night due to a rise in coronavirus cases among students.
According to UVA, the new restrictions went into effect on Tuesday, Feb. 16 and will stay in effect through Feb. 26, at which time university leaders will reevaluate them based on the number of cases and other data at the time.
“We know that the temporary steps outlined below will be difficult for members of this community, particularly our students,” President Jim Ryan, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Dr. K. Craig Kent, Provost Liz Magill and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis wrote in a community email Tuesday evening. “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.”
The various operating changes announced by UVA are listed below:
- All in-person events and gatherings — both on- and off-Grounds — as defined in Policy SEC-045 are prohibited and should be moved online as of 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
- Examples of these events include 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, albeit 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 hall for essential activities, including the following:
- 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 taking part in other medical care.
- Going to an on- or off-Grounds job — not including volunteer activities — not affected by these modified restrictions.
- Picking up mail at the mailroom.
- Going to the bookstore for essential personal items.
- Off-Grounds students are encouraged to stay home and limit contact with individuals outside of their living arrangement. In addition, 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 take part in other medical care.
- Go to an on-Grounds job not impacted by these modified restrictions.
- Recreational facilities will close at their planned times Tuesday evening and stay closed during this period.
- Libraries will close at their planned times Tuesday evening before operations move to contactless pick-up for the duration of this period.
- Dining facilities will remain open and grab-and-go options will be available. However, in-person seating will be restricted to no more than two people dining together.
- Telework is strongly encouraged for as many employees as possible.
- The university says employment status and pay will not be interrupted for staff members and students who work in areas that are closed due to the short-term measures and who are unable to work remotely.
School officials say they alerted UVA community members last week of the presence of the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant — also known as the U.K. variant — of the coronavirus, as well as a concerning rise in positive cases that was distributed widely among on- and off-Grounds students.
However, the increase in cases continued to grow over the weekend, with UVA’s COVID Tracker reporting 364 active cases of COVID-19 among students as of Tuesday afternoon, featuring 117 new student cases from Monday, Feb. 15. Overall, UVA reported 376 active cases among faculty, students, staff, and contracted employees; quarantine space at 24% occupied, with isolation space at 19%.
“If conditions improve as we expect, we will lift these restrictions and return to the plan with which we started the semester,” the UVA leaders said in Tuesday’s message. “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.”
The university also continues to emphasize the importance of following the preventative measures listed below to help curb the spread of the virus:
- Wear your masks, and double them when possible and practical.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Stay six feet away from others.
- Avoid out-of-town travel unless absolutely necessary.
“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 message concluded. “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.”
If you are a UVA student or employee and these new restrictions — or just the pandemic in general –make you feel anxious, isolated, or depressed, you are encouraged to take advantage of the mental health resources offered by the university.