University President Jim Ryan and Dean of Students Allen Groves updated the student body Tuesday on their planned COVID-19 protocol for the upcoming semester. Those planning to arrive on Grounds by the Feb. 1 start date are instructed to return their Let’s Get Checked coronavirus test kit immediately, and weekly prevalence testing will follow for all undergraduate, graduate, and professional community members once they return to the area. Although the number of COVID-19 cases has reached an all-time high both nationally and within Charlottesville — causing the University to limit in-person gatherings to six — Ryan expressed his overall sense of optimism for the spring.
Ryan explained that the University’s experience successfully limiting infections in the fall reassured local health professionals.
“We can now perform thousands of tests per day, and we will be requiring every student to get tested once a week,” Ryan said. “We are also making regular testing available
to faculty and staff. We also have more experienced support teams and more isolation and quarantine space, and, as a community, we have more experience following and enforcing health and safety protocols … We also learned a lot last semester about
how the virus spreads and the relative risks of different environments. We did not see any evidence of transmission within classrooms or from UVA students to faculty, staff, and members of the community this fall.”
Groves outlined the rationale behind a new, six-person limit on gatherings that will last from Jan. 19 until at least Feb. 14.
“Last Friday, the New York Times reported the CDC is warning, and I’m quoting, that ‘a far more contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in Britain ‘could become the dominant source of infection in the United States by March, and would likely lead to a wrenching surge in cases and deaths that would further burden overwhelmed hospitals,'” Groves said. “Students should be well-versed by now in what is required, including the necessity to gather in groups of six or less, wear masks at all times, and maintain a six-foot minimum distance. Given the increasing risk, we will move even more quickly to immediately address violations and, in the most severe cases, suspend those who do not comply.”
Provost Liz Magill and Chief Operating Office JJ Davis echoed public health guidance in an email to the study body and provided a vaccine update.
“Vaccine distribution in the Commonwealth, led by the Virginia Department of Health, is currently limited to Phase 1A healthcare workers and Phase 1B essential workers and individuals 65 and older and those ages 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions,” Magill and Davis wrote. “You can learn more about the local vaccination program and phases, and complete a survey to be placed on the vaccine list if you are currently eligible on the Blue Ridge Health District (BRHD) website …Please do not schedule a vaccine appointment unless you have received an email directly from BRHD or UVA that it is your time to schedule an appointment. You will be turned away from the vaccine clinic if you are not eligible for a vaccine at this time.”
University leadership and public health experts will conduct a town hall to answer questions about the coming semester on Thursday, Jan. 28, from 4 to 5 p.m. The event is open to all. Click here to register.