The University of Virginia announced Tuesday that it will delay undergraduate in-person instruction and residence hall move-in dates by two weeks in response to an uptick in local and national coronavirus cases.
Undergraduate courses will still begin Aug. 25, but all courses will begin online. In-person instruction for undergraduates will now begin Sept. 8, and students will be able to move into residence halls several days before then. Graduate and professional programs will start as previously planned.
A more complete move-in schedule will be released at a later date, and University leaders also urged students who plan to live off-Grounds to delay their return until in-person courses resume. Although undergraduate residence halls will not be open, some students with extenuating circumstances may need to return to Grounds as originally planned, and the University will work to accommodate these students with alternate housing arrangements over the course of the two-week delay. International students who plan to attend the University in person this semester should plan to arrive in the United States by Aug. 25 in order to comply with quarantine and immigration requirements.
More information is available on the Return to Grounds website and Fall 2020 Student Resource site, and University leaders will hold a virtual town hall on Friday for students, faculty and staff who would like to hear more about current plans. Similar virtual gatherings for parents and Charlottesville community members will be held next week.
UVA announced the changes Tuesday in an email to the University community signed by President Jim Ryan, Provost Liz Magill, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Dr. K. Craig Kent and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis. The leaders said they made the shift in response to an uptick in virus transmission in Virginia and nationwide since the University’s original reopening plans were announced June 17, as well as supply chain disruptions affecting the availability of testing materials.
“In response to these conditions, and based on the advice of UVA public health experts, we have decided to adopt a phased approach to the fall semester, which we believe will best safeguard the health and safety of our University community and our Charlottesville neighbors and give us the best chance of a successful return to Grounds,” they wrote. “We still plan to welcome all students back to Grounds, but out of caution, we will do it a bit more slowly than originally intended.”
There have been some positive signs, the leaders noted. Over the summer, UVA successfully ramped up research activity that was forced to stop in the spring, launched select graduate and professional programs in-person, welcomed student-athletes back to Grounds for preseason training and resumed in-person work for staff involved with fall preparations.
“These early steps have shown that, by following proper precautions, we can resume in-person activity safely,” they wrote.
The University has and will continue to implement numerous health and safety precautions, including virus testing for all students who will be in Charlottesville this semester, a student behavioral contract and training modules for staff. Classroom capacity has been revised to comply with physical distancing recommendations, and classrooms have been outfitted with plexiglass shields for faculty members, and will be sanitized according to enhanced cleaning protocols. Physical distancing measures and safety protocols will be enforced in dining halls, libraries, buses and other public spaces, and face coverings will be required for all students, faculty and staff.
“Our public-health experts are confident that, with these measures in place, our classrooms will be low-risk environments for our faculty and students,” Ryan, Magill, Kent and Davis said in the message.
“The unfortunate truth is that COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, and we must adapt to changing conditions in order to deliver on our missions of teaching, research, service and patient care. At the same time, the health and safety of our community remain paramount,” the UVA leaders wrote. “We will continue to track closely key criteria such as viral prevalence rates, hospital capacity, compliance with health and safety measures and the availability of testing materials necessary to our plans for the fall. If we need to change plans again due to the progression of the virus, the guidance of our public health experts, or guidelines from the Virginia Department of Health, we will. For now, we believe that this is the best plan to pursue in the face of the information we have, and we are optimistic that it will enable us to have a safe and productive semester on Grounds.”
They plan to share another update no later than Aug. 28.