Thursday afternoon, the UVA COVID Tracker reported 174 new cases in a single day, a slight dip from the previous day’s record of 229 cases. Prior to this week, the single-day record was 59 cases on Sept. 17, 2020. This brings the total number of cases this spring to 1148, over two-thirds of the total number of cases in the fall.
In a Spring 2021 Update to students, the University maintains that the rise in cases was due to “widespread” noncompliance with health and safety protocols. University officials also stated that “speculation that Greek organizations, or any other single group or part of our community, are solely or primarily responsible for rising cases is not supported by evidence”.
These updates come two days after President Jim Ryan announced new restrictions banning all in-person gatherings and limiting movement to “essential activities”. Such activities include eating at dining halls and attending in-person classes, with the University citing they “have not seen evidence of viral transmission” in classrooms. Recreational facilities and libraries will remain closed until further notice.
In his email, President Ryan acknowledged the upward trend of positive cases, attributing it to “members of our community” who did not adhere to the University’s regulations.
Students have recently spoken out that in-person fraternity events were responsible for the climbing cases. In the fall, the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) suspended all in-person activities. This policy was revised during the spring semester, allowing small in-person gatherings with appropriate social distancing. However, reports on social media by students suggest that fraternities have not adhered to these restrictions. Students have also started a Change.org petition calling for non-compliant IFC and Inter-sorority Council (ISC) organizations to be suspended until the end of the semester.
In response to the spike in new cases, the IFC released a post-recruitment statement maintaining that fraternities conducted in-person recruitment with “stringent public health guidelines”. These guidelines include limiting in-person events to 6 people, adherence to social distancing, and mandating that masks be worn at all times except while eating. The IFC stated that all new member activities will be conducted virtually “until small gatherings are again permitted by the University.”
The University emphasized its compliance reporting process to address COVID policy violations. University leaders and public health officials will also hold a town hall Friday afternoon to clarify the new restrictions.