The University of Virginia announced today that it will test all students – those living on and off Grounds – for COVID-19 before Thanksgiving.
UVA concludes the in-person portion of fall semester classes on Nov. 24, which is also the final day of Academic Division regular operations before the break.
In an effort to minimize travel and possible transmission of the virus, the University is asking students to return to their home communities and not return to Grounds until the start of the spring semester. Classes for the spring semester begin on Feb. 1.
In a message to the University community, Provost Liz Magill, Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis and COVID-19 Response Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Mitch Rosner said UVA is on track to end the fall semester in a good position.
Data from UVA’s COVID Tracker show that the University had 35 active cases as of Wednesday, which includes 16 active student cases. Just 1% of UVA’s isolation space for those who have tested positive is currently occupied, and 3% of its quarantine space (for those possibly exposed to the virus, but asymptomatic) is occupied.
“This could change quickly, as we have seen with recent trends nationally,” the message acknowledged. “We strongly believe that robust pre-departure testing is a key to keeping us on the right track and helping make the Thanksgiving break as safe as possible for our University community, our neighbors, and our families.”
The University said it will also offer voluntary, asymptomatic testing for Academic Division faculty and staff, contracted workers, and Medical Center and University Physicians group team members before the Thanksgiving break.
For students, the pre-Thanksgiving departure testing is part of UVA’s mandatory prevalence testing program. Students receive notification of a time frame in which they must visit a testing station to provide a saliva sample. Initially, the saliva program was focused to ensure that all students living in University housing would be tested at least once every nine days, with limited off-Grounds testing also occurring. More recently, additional testing capacity in the program positioned UVA to be able to also test all off-Grounds students in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area before Thanksgiving break.
About 4,500 students live in University housing this fall, and about 13,500 live off-Grounds.
UVA also announced that it will offer voluntary testing options for students in addition to the mandatory schedule. The voluntary tests could accommodate students whose mandatory appointments are soon, but who wish to receive a test closer to their departure from Charlottesville. Voluntary testing will be conducted through kits available from the testing vendor Let’s Get Checked, and through walk-in hours for saliva testing that will be held for students between Nov. 8 and 24.
Additional information is available at the Return to Grounds site.
UVA said students who test positive for COVID-19 before leaving Charlottesville would need to follow existing protocols on isolation and quarantine, and should develop a plan for where they would do so if it becomes necessary during the break when away from this region. UVA’s isolation and quarantine spaces will remain open during the break for students living in University housing.
“It is important to realize that a negative test does not completely exclude the possibility of COVID-19. You can be exposed during travel or may have been exposed just prior to departure and in both cases the test would be negative,” Thursday’s message said. “Thus, we recommend caution and monitoring yourself for symptoms. We also urge special caution for students returning home to a family member who is immunocompromised. If you develop any symptoms, we recommend testing for COVID-19 in your locality and isolation while awaiting the test result.”