University of Virginia leaders on Friday announced that the spring academic semester will begin in-person and on time, with several modifications to public health measures in response to the global spike in COVID-19 cases driven by the omicron variant.
In a message to the University community, the executive leadership team said UVA has moved the deadline for Academic Division students, faculty and staff to show confirmation that they have received a vaccine booster from Feb. 1 to Jan. 14.
“Moving the booster deadline is an alternative to delaying the in-person semester until the current omicron-driven rise in cases subsides,” the message said. “A residential academic experience is an essential part of what it means to attend the University of Virginia, and we know how important it is to our students, faculty, and staff to start the semester together in-person.”
Friday’s message was signed by President Jim Ryan, Executive Vice President and Provost Liz Magill, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis, and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Dr. K. Craig Kent.
“In-person instruction is a core part of our mission as an institution and UVA public health experts have advised us that classroom spaces are low-risk environments for infection,” the executive team said. “That said, in response to a significant global spike in COVID-19 cases as a result of the omicron variant, and based on the advice of our public health experts, we believe additional measures are necessary to reduce the spread of the virus and to start our spring semester as safely as possible.”
The earlier booster requirement applies to all Academic Division students, faculty and staff, as well as students in the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing. UVA Health, including School of Medicine and School of Nursing faculty and staff, will stick with the previously announced Feb. 1 deadline.
University leaders explained the need for the change saying, “Our public health experts are concerned that a spike in serious COVID-19 cases at the start of the semester could strain health care resources and University isolation and quarantine space. By pulling this booster deadline forward, we will ensure that the highest number of UVA community members possible are as protected as they can be from COVID-19 infection, serious illness and hospitalization as the in-person semester gets underway.”
Ensuring that everyone is boosted before the semester gets underway will also help preserve University quarantine space, as CDC guidance states that those who are boosted do not need to quarantine if they are a close contact of someone infected with COVID-19.
In order to meet this requirement, UVA students attending in the spring semester must upload proof of an approved booster shot to HealthyHoos no later than Jan. 14. Those who are not eligible to receive their booster by Jan. 14 must submit proof of their booster no later than 30 days following their first day of eligibility.
Faculty and staff will also be required to upload proof of an approved booster no later than Jan. 14. UVA Human Resources will provide additional instructions on how to upload the documentation into Workday no later than Monday.
In addition to the accelerated deadline for boosters, University leaders announced that faculty teaching this spring who have extenuating health circumstances may request a temporary exception to begin their teaching this semester remotely, a practice followed in the current January term. The University provost will provide additional information about this change in the coming days.
University leaders and public health experts are continuing to monitor public health conditions and evaluate whether any additional changes are necessary to protect public health and fulfilling UVA’s core missions of residential teaching, research and medical care. They will update the University community on any additional changes by Jan. 14.