On Wednesday evening, UVA hosted a town hall on COVID-19 Holiday Safety with Dr. Mitch Rosner, Dr. Costi Sifri, Provost Liv Macgill, and Chief Operating Officer JJ Davis over Zoom. A recording of this discussion is available on the official “Return to Grounds” website.
The primary focus of this Town Hall was to offer tips for UVA students and their families on how to stay safe and healthy during the Thanksgiving break. Dr. Sifri and Dr. Rosner emphasized Dean Groves’ message that students should not come back to Grounds until they move back in on February 2. They relayed protective measures such as hand washing, mask wearing, and social distancing in order to keep families safe when students return home. Doctors also emphasized that everyone should get a flu shot this season in order to curb the spread of all seasonal diseases this winter.
In this town hall, doctors announced that UVA will be mandating another round of testing via Let’s Get Checked among the student body prior to their return to Grounds for the spring semester. In the fall, supply chain issues contributed to the delayed start of the fall semester, but Dr. Rosner seemed optimistic that these testing kinks have been worked out.
One issue that the Town Hall covered was the role that UVA Health would play in the spring in distributing the vaccine to UVA students. Dr. Sifri asserted that UVA Health Systems is gearing up to be a large distributor of the COVID-19 vaccine to the community. UVA healthcare workers will be the first recipients of this vaccine, followed by high-risk individuals, with UVA students being the third group to receive the vaccine. He was optimistic about UVA Health System’s ability to be able to take care of all of these groups.
Given the chaos that erupted when the start of the school year was delayed, parents and students alike are questioning the possibility of history repeating itself. When asked this question in the Town Hall, Dr. Rosner said that it was too early to shed any light on the possibility of delaying the spring of the semester, offering that they will need to, “take a look at what is going on around us.” He was more skeptical of another delay because of higher confidence in the testing supply chain, which became backlogged over the summer, causing a delay in returning to Grounds.
Provost Liz Magill asserted that there will “absolutely” be more in-person classes, and each department has been asked to increase the amount of in-person classes available to students. She also mentioned that the administration is looking into adding more tents, lighting, and heating. In order to make these in-person classes feasible, professors will be able to be tested once a week if they are in contact with students.
While the UVA administration has vocalized that they are working towards providing more in-person opportunities next semester, many of these plans are subject to change and could be thwarted by a vicious winter. Until then, UVA administration is relying on the UVA and Charlottesville communities to continue working together in order to keep all of us safe and healthy.