Thursday evening, two weeks after the University administration eased enhanced public health measures in response to a spike in COVID cases, University officials announced they are lifting additional restrictions on gathering, dining and volunteering following “falling case numbers and positivity rates” in the community.
This announcement arrives a year after the University’s rapid shift to virtual learning in response to the onset of COVID-19. “None of us could have grasped the profound impact that COVID-19 would have on our institution and our daily lives,” the Spring 2021 Update email said.
According to the email, community members may now gather outdoors “in groups of 10 or fewer.” All indoor gatherings remain restricted to the original limit of 6 individuals. Every attendee, whether at an indoor or outdoor gathering, must be masked and distanced at least 6 feet apart. The administration urged community members to “stick to pods and avoid intermingling groups,” even if they have been vaccinated or previously contracted the coronavirus.
Effective March 12, students may sit and eat in appropriately-distanced groups of four per table, up from the former maximum of two. This applies to both outdoor and indoor settings, including the students’ residences.
Some restrictions on volunteering have also been adjusted: Students, faculty and staff may now volunteer with a community organization operating within Virginia’s Blue Ridge Health District (BRJD, provided the organization has a COVID-19 risk mitigation plan in place.
The email announcement included an update on BRHD vaccinations: The district received over 3000 first-dose vaccines this week, following the arrival of the first shipment of single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines last week. BRHD is currently vaccinating individuals aged 16-64 with certain conditions or risk factors.
“It’s so much easier to handle because we don’t have to schedule follow up vaccines,” said Albemarle County Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief Heather Childress of the single-dose vaccines. “Hopefully we’re out of the bad weather phase. I hate to even jinx stuff like that, but… a lot of those clinics were canceled or rescheduled because of bad weather.
In the update to students, the administration noted these changes are “a direct response to the much-improved conditions at UVA,” but also cautioned against the impression that “we are completely out of the woods.” Officials urged readers to continue adhering to all public health measures to keep everyone “healthy and safe.”