Let me begin by thanking you for the significant efforts you are making to help us check the spread of COVID-19. This hasn’t been an easy semester, and you’ve made very real sacrifices to help us keep our case counts low and the community safe. I know it’s been harder to make friends, explore Grounds, and engage in college life as compared to a “regular” academic year, but I am grateful for everything you continue to do.
We are entering the final month of on-Grounds education and with that comes some risk. Temperatures are cooling off, flu season is approaching in a COVID environment, we are spending more time indoors, and there may be some fatigue from months of complying with important public health restrictions. We will reverse all the progress we’ve recently made in combatting the spread of COVID if we let up now. Please remember that all current COVID regulations remain in place. If you gather with others, please continue to keep the number in your group to 10 or fewer, wear a mask, and practice physical distancing (six feet between individuals). Avoid unnecessary travel away from Charlottesville. Although we have seen a steady decrease in active cases among students through your efforts and increased testing, that could quickly change if we stop doing what has worked well thus far. There is also a risk that a student who is infected with COVID-19, but otherwise asymptomatic, may carry the virus home to their family members at Thanksgiving.
Halloween weekend presents a very real concern for a “super-spreader” event if you choose to gather in numbers larger than 10, fail to consistently wear a face mask and maintain a six foot minimum distance from others, or otherwise socialize as if we aren’t in a COVID-19 world. The usual Halloween practice of going out to visit friends in multiple apartments, houses or residence halls can lead to a significant outbreak, undoing all the work we have collectively engaged in thus far.
Moreover, for those who may choose to drink this weekend, alcohol weakens judgment, and with the presence of COVID, can lead to even greater health risks for you and others.
If you do engage in limited Halloween activities this weekend consistent with our COVID policy requirements, please do the following:
- Make a plan in advance with friends and help each other stick to the plan.
- Carry a photo ID and a fully charged cellphone.
- Be sensitive to how others may perceive your costume.
- Utilize all safety resources, such as Safe Ride and the UVA/Ambassadors.
- Don’t hesitate to call 911 if you observe even one sign of PUBS in a friend (Puking while passed out, Unresponsive to pinching, Breathing is slow or irregular, and Skin is blue, cold or clammy). If you are unsure, call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 for confidential, expert advice.
- Students will not face University disciplinary action for seeking medical help involving alcohol or other drugs, and they will not incur any out-of-pocket charges if the rescue squad needs to respond.
Thank you for all you are doing to take responsibility for your own safety, as well as that of other community members, during this unusual time.
Allen W. Groves
University Dean of Students