As students return to Grounds, the University of Virginia is preparing to resume a much more normal schedule of classes and events after more than a year and a half of precautions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike the previous academic year, no gathering limits are in place, though a temporary indoor masking policy remains in effect and will be re-evaluated by Sept. 6. High vaccination rates among students, faculty and staff will also allow the University to resume much more normal operations.
However, there are still some precautions and protocols in place for masking, gatherings and events, and for testing, isolation and quarantine procedures after a COVID-19 exposure. UVA Provost Liz Magill and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis outlined these in an email sent to the University community on Friday.
Here are the key details.
People who are vaccinated will not be required to wear masks while attending large outdoor events like UVA football games or outdoor concerts. However, masks will be required at those events in enclosed spaces such as restrooms, elevators or the indoor portion of hospitality suites, unless you are actively eating or drinking.
Unvaccinated people will still be required to wear masks whenever they are around other people, whether inside or outside, including at large outdoor events. You can review UVA’s current policy on masks here.
Since masks cannot be worn while actively eating or drinking, University leaders recommend hosting events that involve eating or drinking outdoors as much as possible. In fact, Magill and Davis wrote Friday, outdoor events are preferable whenever they are feasible.
“UVA community members are strongly encouraged to gather outdoors as much as possible in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, including the highly contagious Delta variant,” they wrote. “That encouragement extends to social gatherings as well as events, particularly those where food or drink are served.”
While masks are not required in residence halls or private homes, Magill and Davis encouraged community members “to exercise sound judgment when gathering around others in an indoor setting, particularly with people from outside of their living arrangement.”
Testing, Isolation and Quarantine Procedures
Despite high vaccination rates, Magill and Davis said it is likely that members of the community will test positive for COVID-19 over the course of the semester, either because they are unvaccinated or because of a rare breakthrough infection.
University public health officials have developed testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine procedures for those exposed to the virus. Isolation is the separation from others of an individual who has a confirmed COVID-19 infection; quarantine is the separation from others of an individual who is awaiting a test result and/or has been in close contact with someone who has a COVID-19 infection.
Students living in University housing who need to isolate or quarantine will be assigned to temporary isolation or quarantine spaces either in dorms, apartments or local hotels, or may choose to go home if it is safe to do so. Students living off-Grounds may return home or isolate or quarantine in their living spaces. A full explanation of isolation and quarantine procedures in both cases is available here.
Student Health and Wellness has also created this infographic to help students identify if they have been in close contact with an infected person and what they should do next.
Employees who believe they may be a close contact should contact UVA Employee Health (434-924-2013). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides useful guidance on when individuals should isolate and when they should quarantine.
More to Follow on Masking Policy
University leaders and public health experts continue to monitor the progression of the pandemic and review the University’s indoor masking requirement over the coming weeks, with the hope that conditions will allow it to be modified or lifted. UVA leaders will provide an update on that policy no later than Sept. 6.
For information about UVA’s COVID-19 protocols and procedures, as well as answers to frequently asked questions, visit the University’s coronavirus website.