University of Virginia leaders announced Friday afternoon a new, temporary indoor masking policy in order to safeguard against the delta variant of the coronavirus as the University prepares for a full reopening later this month.
“First, and most important, thanks to high vaccination rates in our student and employee communities, we are planning for the full residential and academic experience that is at the heart of our University’s mission. Classrooms, residence halls, dining and recreation facilities, and other key facets of University life will be operating at full capacity from day one,” wrote Provost Liz Magill and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer J. J. Davis in a mass email.
“Gathering limits and physical distancing protocols have been lifted. Major events like Wahoo Welcome and UVA football games are on the schedule, and we are looking forward to seeing you there.”
Magill and Davis wrote that UVA experts have been “monitoring the delta variant and considering the advice of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the Virginia Department of Health, and UVA’s own world-class public health experts – all of whom are concerned about the threat the variant poses.”
“In recognition of this new and evolving situation, and the fact that UVA students are arriving from many different places all over the world, we have decided to begin the year with a mask requirement for all people, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, who enter UVA properties,” they wrote.
The policy covers University-owned or leased public spaces like academic or administrative buildings, libraries, labs, dining halls, IM/Rec facilities and all UVA Health properties. Masks are not required while eating or drinking, or when people are alone in a closed space like an office.
The policy also does not cover dorms or private housing, including common areas within those spaces. “Those spaces will be largely full of vaccinated people and easier for the University to monitor and respond if cases do arise. The temporary mask requirement also does not apply outdoors,” Magill and Davis wrote.
Officials will continue to monitor case counts, hospitalizations and other conditions, and hope to modify or lift the masking policy by Sept. 6, they wrote.
Those “not yet vaccinated will continue to be required to wear masks when they are around others indoors or outdoors and appear for weekly COVID testing even after the temporary masking requirement is lifted, in accordance with University policy,” the message said.
UVA is continuing to urge every member of the community “to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect yourself and others against the virus.”
“Finally, we are evaluating additional mask requirements for certain large outdoor gatherings and will follow up soon with any new information,” Magill and Davis wrote.
The University will host a virtual town hall meeting with University leaders on Wednesday at 2 p.m. “that will offer the opportunity to hear from our public health experts and ask questions that may be on your minds.” Those interested can register here.
Magill and Davis wrote that people in the UVA community “have continuously gone the extra mile to keep themselves and those around them healthy and safe. We recognize that this change may pose an inconvenience as the semester begins, but we believe it is the best way to bring everyone back safely and begin a successful year together here on Grounds.
“We are looking forward to having you back,” they wrote.