Dear Parents and Guardians:
As fall begins, we all find ourselves entering the third season of the year with a pandemic at hand. I’m grateful so many students are continuing to take the situation seriously and are following the guidelines implemented at the beginning of the school year. We need their continued vigilance, along with yours, to keep containing the virus as much as possible.
Below are several important updates:
Family Weekend. With no large events occurring this fall and with visitors being discouraged from coming to Grounds, I wanted to confirm Family Weekend is cancelled this year. We are looking at the possibility of a virtual event in October and will keep you posted as those plans develop.
Flu Shots. This year more than ever, it is important for students—and their families—to remain healthy, which includes being up-to-date on immunizations. Every fall, we usually host a flu shot clinic at Newcomb Hall. This year, given the risks associated with crowds, we will not be holding the clinic. Please visit this webpage to see how students can receive the flu vaccine at Student Health and Wellness, as well as a list of area pharmacies where students can go to get the shot. This list includes options near Grounds for students without access to transportation. Student Health and Wellness recommends getting the flu shot before the end of October.
Testing Activities. As you may have read in UVA Today or the weekly Return to Grounds newsletter, current efforts at the University are focused on prevention, detection, and response surrounding COVID-19. The University is expanding its prevalence testing programs, and as of this morning, we have tested all the residents of three first-year residence halls (Balz-Dobie, Kellogg, and Echols). A random group of students from Lefevre Residence Hall also were tested.
The goal is to periodically test all students who are living and learning on Grounds or in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area throughout the semester. Decisions about testing will be guided by analysis of the various results from wastewater testing, random testing of students, and eventual saliva testing. Those decisions may lead to a focus on the residents of a particular dorm, students with a common association or affiliation, or students sharing a geographic area. If test analysis suggests a particular geographic area or group of students should be tested, the University will do so.
Like everyone else, we are continuing to learn about COVID-19 and the intricacies of testing. For this reason, our plans continue to evolve and are based on the best available guidance at the time. When we do receive indicators that further testing should take place, whether in a residence hall or among a group of students, we move very quickly to take action. We recognize the timing may be inconveniencing, especially if students have to move to quarantine or isolation housing after dark. We will do our best to improve such situations in the future.
Contact Tracing. We have learned that some students are avoiding contact tracing calls from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) or UVA Student Health and Wellness. This is in direct violation of the agreement students signed when they decided to return this fall and agreed to cooperate fully in testing and in contact tracing with VDH. If students receive calls from either entity, they need to respond promptly (usually within two hours). These calls will likely appear as a phone number they don’t recognize. Students should make sure their phone is turned on and their voice mailbox isn’t full. We also expect the full cooperation of parents in encouraging their students to comply with contact tracing requirements. Contact tracing is one of our most important tools in stopping the spread of the virus.
Expectations around Quarantine and Isolation. The University has devoted significant resources to developing a quarantine and isolation infrastructure for students. Quarantine and isolation rooms are located in University-managed rooms and apartments and in area hotels. Any student entering quarantine or isolation can be assured of a clean, safe room with fresh linens provided as needed (students need to provide their own towels if they are on Grounds) and delivery of healthy meals three times a day. They also have access to highly functioning Wi-Fi services so they can continue with their studies. Additionally, care teams are in place to ensure each student has a single point of contact for outreach and assistance. Care team liaisons are University staff members who will reach out to students via email or phone to answer questions and address any concerns a student may raise. Care liaisons will also apprise students of available resources, including how to reach Student Health and Wellness.
If a request takes a couple of hours, we do ask for patience from both students and parents as the number of students in quarantine or isolation is steadily increasing. More information is available in a resource guide given to quarantining and isolating students. One version is available for students living in University-managed housing, and another is available for those students living off Grounds.
Below is a message University Dean of Students sent to all students earlier this morning with more details about current topics of interest and concern.
Thank you for your support during a time that remains challenging for everyone. Whether your student is here or at home with you, we hope you and your loved ones are faring well.
Patricia M. Lampkin
Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer
I’m writing today with a few brief updates on our shared efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.
I’ll begin by thanking you for the great effort being made by so many to comply with University policy and look out for each other. When I’ve traveled around Grounds and the surrounding area, I’ve seen significant compliance with mask wearing by the vast majority of you, as well as efforts to maintain an appropriate physical distance of at least six feet if walking or running outside without wearing a mask. You’ve also asked questions when unsure of how to go about a specific group event or activity, and this shows a desire to do the right thing.
Here are some additional points I’d like to briefly reinforce or clarify for you:
- Always keep in mind the spirit of relevant University policy (i.e., the objective of protecting community health). While we have a 15 person maximum limit on gatherings, that number is likely far too large for a group of friends coming over to your apartment. The physical space might only safely accommodate five people when socially distanced in your living room with masks on. For a Lawn room, that number is likely no more than two individuals plus the resident. Keep in mind the maximum number for the room, which will almost always be much less than 15 if it’s inside a residence.
- Be supportive of friends and classmates who test positive for COVID-19. This is a virus that spreads easily through human contact. Someone can contract it despite trying to do the right thing. Let’s not shame those who need our support.
- You need to respond promptly (usually within two hours) to phone calls from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) or UVA Student Health and Wellness. These calls will likely appear as a phone number you don’t recognize. Make sure your phone is turned on and your voicemail is set to receive messages and not already at full mailbox capacity. An important part of the agreement you signed when you decided to return to Grounds this fall was cooperating fully in testing and in contact tracing by VDH.
- You will not be subject to disciplinary action for information you share with VDH as part of their follow-up contact tracing work (e.g., if you disclose to VDH that you were at a bar the night before testing positive, despite being underage). It’s critical you provide full and complete information to VDH so prompt contact tracing can take place, protecting everyone with whom you may have come in contact and those with whom they may subsequently come into contact.
- Be mindful of self-care. This includes making sure to maintain a good sleep schedule and spending time outdoors in fresh air and sunshine. Utilize the many tents and open greenspaces across Grounds. Go for a walk on O-Hill. Kayak on the Rivanna or the James. Be mindful to avoid isolation and look for safe opportunities to gather in small groups, including the many programs sponsored by the University Programs Council. If you would like more ideas, please fill out the Student Engagement Involvement Calculator to get a personalized email with eight to ten suggested clubs and activities that might interest you. See the links at the bottom of this email for more details on this and other opportunities.
Thanks again for what you are doing every day to protect the health of our shared community.
Allen W. Groves
University Dean of Students
Ways to Get Involved