The University of Virginia on Friday reaffirmed plans for the spring academic semester, while encouraging members of the University community to maintain the vigilance that helped make the fall semester a success.
UVA will begin in-person undergraduate instruction on Feb. 1, with some modifications to health and safety protocols. Residence hall move-in will proceed as planned, as will graduate and professional program instruction.
“As we prepare for this semester, the increase in the prevalence of the virus in Virginia and around the country, as well as reports of new, more contagious variants of the virus, mean we must take an even more aggressive approach, as an institution and as individuals, to limiting the spread within our community,” said a UVA community message delivered by President Jim Ryan, Provost Liz Magill, Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Dr. K. Craig Kent.
UVA said it strongly encourages all students to take extra precautions to minimize the risk of exposure to the virus for at least 14 days before they arrive in Charlottesville. All students who will be living and learning in Charlottesville or Albemarle County will once again be required to submit a negative COVID-19 PCR test before being approved to return to Grounds. After arrival, all students will be required to test weekly through UVA’s saliva-based asymptomatic prevalence testing program.
UVA also said it will limit the size of gatherings – not including classroom settings – to no more than six people, starting Jan. 19 and through at least the first two weeks of the semester. The previous limit was 10.
“Simply put, our margin for error is narrower than it was in the fall,” said the message from executive leaders. “A successful spring semester will require even greater adherence to UVA policies around testing, masks, physical distancing and gatherings.”
UVA delayed the start of in-person instruction leading into the fall semester in 2020. During subsequent weeks, the University quickly matured in its ability to detect and prevent the presence and spread of the virus, through expanded prevalence testing, the use of wastewater analysis to detect the virus in dorm settings, and by adjusting the maximum size of groups and through other restrictions as needed. It also exhorted UVA community members to adhere to expectations regarding mask wearing, physical distancing and frequent hand-washing.
In the Friday message, the leaders again highlighted those and other reasons behind the decision to begin in-person instruction as planned on Feb. 1. They included:
- The University’s knowledge about the pandemic and capacity to combat it through extensive asymptomatic testing, quarantine and isolation, and other measures have grown significantly since the academic year began.
- Offering in-person experiences will better enable the University to monitor and govern compliance with public health measures for the many UVA students who live off-Grounds and will be in the area this spring.
- After completing a full semester in the fall, the University had not seen any evidence of transmission within the classroom, between students and UVA faculty and staff, or from UVA students into the greater Charlottesville-Albemarle community.
- While it was challenging, this community has demonstrated that it is capable of complying with measures that limit the spread.
UVA leaders said even those who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 or who have been vaccinated are required to follow health and safety protocol on masks, physical distancing, prevalence testing and gatherings.
“As we have said before, we continue to monitor the progression of the virus and will make changes to our approach if they are necessary to keep this community safe,” the leadership message said. “Thank you for your continued patience and vigilance in this challenging moment and we are looking forward to seeing many of you when Spring 2021 gets underway.”