Due to concerns about rising COVID-19 cases in the local area and in Virginia, University of Virginia leaders said Thursday that UVA’s indoor masking policy will continue and will be re-evaluated no later than Oct. 1.
The current policy requires all people to wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. Anyone who is not vaccinated must wear a mask while around others, indoors and outdoors, and must undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. UVA has a very high vaccination rate; approximately 97% of students and 92% of staff, including 96% of teaching and research faculty, have been vaccinated.
The current masking policy was announced in August and UVA leaders had previously said they would reevaluate the policy by Monday, consulting with public health experts and looking at test positivity rates in the Charlottesville area, as well as hospital capacity in the region and statewide.
“Unfortunately, case numbers in our area and around the commonwealth are higher than we’d like, and the contagiousness of the delta variant is creating cause for concern and the need for ongoing precautions,” UVA Provost Liz Magill and Chief Operation Officer J.J. Davis wrote in an email to the University community on Thursday. “These requirements and expectations are an important part of our ongoing efforts to keep everyone here learning, living and working in-person safely. However, we have to recognize that the delta variant presents challenges that we have to work together to mitigate.”
UVA leaders and public health experts will continue to monitor case numbers and will offer another update on the masking policy no later than Oct. 1, Magill and Davis wrote.
“We continue to view this as a temporary measure that we will lift as soon as conditions permit,” they wrote.
The email message also reminded readers of the masking policy for UVA’s Saturday football game against the College of William & Mary. Masks will be required for everyone in indoor spaces at Scott Stadium, including restrooms, elevators and the inside area of hospitality suites. Unvaccinated individuals are required to wear a mask whether indoors or out, and vaccinated attendees are also encouraged to do so.
“While we are not currently requiring all attendees to wear masks outdoors, we strongly encourage everyone – vaccinated or unvaccinated – to do so in order to limit opportunities for the virus to spread at the game,” Magill and Davis wrote. “Masks are a simple and highly effective way to protect both yourself and others from viral transmission. Please strongly consider wearing a mask during the game. Doing so will protect you and the entire community.”
Masks should have multiple layers, such as a three-ply medical-grade mask, and should fit tightly over your nose and mouth. (UVA quarterback Brennan Armstrong has some helpful reminders for wearing your mask properly.)
UVA leaders hope that high vaccination rates, along with continued adherence to masking policies, will help the fall semester continue in a more normal fashion, with in-person courses and activities, such as Saturday’s game.
“In the coming days and weeks, University leaders will continue to monitor the virus carefully, advised on a daily basis by our public health experts. We will continue to make adjustments as needed to protect public health and our ability to live, learn and work together in-person this year,” Magill and Davis wrote. “As we have said previously, the virus remains unpredictable and we must be ready to adjust our response to it. The measures we are announcing today are critical in helping us reach our goal of responsibly continuing in-person experiences. We remain grateful to this entire community for your role in making this semester a success.”