UVA Announces New Exceptions for Mask Mandate, In-Person Lighting of the Lawn

Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications

October 22, 2021

The University of Virginia’s requirement that all people wear masks when inside a UVA-owned or -leased facility will continue through the remainder of the fall semester, but with new exceptions for certain activities at Intramural-Recreational Sports facilities and several for-credit performing arts disciplines.

The changes were announced Friday afternoon in a community-wide email from Provost Liz Magill and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis.

Magill and Davis also announced that the 20th Annual Lighting of the Lawn will be held in-person this year after pandemic conditions required festivities to be conducted virtually last year. The event will be limited to members of the University community.

“These updates are part of our ongoing effort to protect public health, while offering students, faculty and staff as much flexibility as possible,” Magill and Davis wrote. “The threat of the pandemic remains, but our high vaccination rate and low case counts allow us to begin loosening restrictions in targeted areas that will make it easier for members of our community to pursue their studies or other activities important to them.”

Throughout the academic year, University policy has required all people who enter a University-owned or -leased space to wear a mask, regardless of their vaccination status. The policy does not apply to residence halls or personal residences, or when people are actively eating or drinking.

Effective Wednesday, fully vaccinated students, members and guests at IM-Rec facilities will no longer be required to wear a mask while using cardio equipment or participating in group exercise classes.

All attendees will be required to wear masks when they are not actively using cardio equipment or participating in a group exercise class and are expected to maintain social distancing while inside the facility. IM-Rec is in the process of updating its policies and will share more information on specific protocols on its website.

The announcement also included new exceptions for certain for-credit performing arts activities that are more difficult to perform while wearing a mask.

Magill and Davis described the changes, writing, “As the weather turns colder, students who are participating in for-credit activities in drama, dance, and instrumental music will be permitted to rehearse and perform indoors, provided they are following certain public health requirements. Individual courses and activities will be subject to specific requirements, examples of which include wearing masks and physically distancing when not actively rehearsing, wearing clear masks at final rehearsals for drama activities, and fitting brass and wind instruments with appropriate bell covers where possible.”

These changes will also apply to UVA’s Cavalier Marching Band, which is planning to resume play in the stands at UVA football games as soon as the required public health measures can be implemented.

More information about additional requirements and protocols for for-credit performing arts activities is available on the College of Arts & Sciences website.

The final update in Friday’s message featured a return toward “normal” for the 20th anniversary of one of the University’s most treasured annual traditions. The Lighting of the Lawn will be conducted in person this year, following a virtual celebration at the height of the pandemic last year. The ceremony – first conceived by University students to unite the local community in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon – features a display of bright lights across the Lawn and the Rotunda, synced to festive music.

This year’s celebration will be held entirely outdoors and will be limited to UVA students, faculty, staff and their families. More information about the date of the event and all public health measures will be available soon.

As they summarized the changes, Magill and Davis thanked UVA public health experts and community members for their ongoing efforts to keep each other safe, saying, “As with all of our COVID-19 policies, these decisions are guided by our medical experts, and they are only possible because of the considerable efforts members of this community have made to limit the spread of the virus by getting vaccinated, wearing masks indoors, and staying home when they are sick. We are optimistic that the policies we have in place will allow us to finish this semester together strong, and we will continue to look for opportunities to offer even greater flexibility to members of our community as we prepare for the spring semester.”

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