Since many of you soon will be leaving Charlottesville for Spring Break, I am writing with several important reminders about health and safety.
If you follow the news, you already know the global coronavirus outbreak is a major concern for anyone considering international travel at this time. The virus has spread to areas of the world beyond China with an accelerating and unpredictable trajectory. This threat will likely grow. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week that the virus is expected to impact the United States in a more severe way than it has to date.
Traveling abroad – whether for study or leisure – carries a number of potential risks. Even a country not currently experiencing an outbreak could suddenly be declared a high-risk area, resulting in heightened exposure to the virus, difficulty with departure, immigration barriers in returning to the U.S., and even possible restrictions on returning to Grounds. The University strongly recommends not traveling to locations with CDC or State Department Level 3 alerts or higher. While we have not cancelled any current or existing study abroad programs, the University will cancel any such programs, even if already under way, at any location for which the CDC sets a warning level 3, or the State Department sets a warning level 3 or 4.
The seasonal flu also is present in many areas. Basic measures remain the best defense against coronavirus, flu, and other communicable diseases:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds or more with soapy water.
- Avoid sharing anything that has come in contact with saliva, whether in your living or social environments.
- Cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow.
- Get adequate sleep and eat well-balanced meals to ensure a healthy immune system.
- The CDC maintains a travel information website for coronavirus (COVID-19).
- CDC Warning Level 3 is in effect for China and South Korea (as of Feb. 24).
- CDC Alert Level 2 is in effect for Iran, Italy, and Japan (as of Feb. 23).
- Be familiar with all aspects of the area you are visiting. The State Department’s website, studentsabroad.state.gov, offers planning tips, including links to local laws.
- Enroll in the State Department’s STEP program and sign up for alerts for your destination(s).
The CDC has recognized stigmatization may occur around coronavirus, and in response, has developed a webpage offering guidance on countering the stigma. Please help us prevent stigmatization by becoming familiar with the facts about COVID-19.
The University continues to monitor conditions around coronavirus and maintains a website with FAQs.
Participating in Non-UVA-Affiliated Programs
- If you are traveling as part of a CIO-sponsored program, remember the University does not oversee these programs. No UVA office maintains a record of CIO Spring Break programs or travel.
- Be sure to let family members know how best to reach you, and share an additional point of contact if available.
OTHER HEALTH AND SAFETY TIPS
Using Taxis or Rideshare
- If you are a rideshare user, review the safety tips provided by Uber and Lyft. Requesting and waiting for your ride inside, and having the driver confirm your name (“Who are you here to pick up?”) can help increase your safety.
- Be familiar with legitimate taxi companies in the area(s) where you are traveling. Look for a phone number on the vehicle, and look for a taxi meter and radio, which may indicate legitimacy.
Preparing to Leave Charlottesville
- Before leaving town, securely lock the doors and windows of your apartment, house, or room. Draw curtains or shades so valuables will not be visible. If feasible, take valuables, such as small electronics or jewelry, with you.
- Leave an external (porch, deck, etc.) light on for security.
- Lock your car and remove any valuables.
- If you live in University housing, follow additional instructions from Housing & Residence Life.
- Be conscious of what you post on social media regarding your absence from Charlottesville.
Staying in Charlottesville
- Hours for most University services, such as UTS, Safe Ride, and Dining, will be altered during Spring Break. Please check the website for details.
- Remain vigilant about your own safety and that of your friends and neighbors who may also be staying in the area. With fewer people on the Grounds and in nearby areas, remain aware of your surroundings, avoid walking alone at night, and don’t hesitate to call 911 if you encounter a suspicious person or situation.
- Most University offices will be closed for Spring Break Day on Friday, March 13.
In a community as large as ours, with widely varying plans for Spring Break, it is not possible to predict all the risks you may encounter. My best advice is to take health and safety seriously, be prepared for changing conditions, and anticipate potential problems that may arise.
Despite the current uncertainties we all are facing, I hope you enjoy a safe, healthy, and rejuvenating break.
Allen W. Groves
University Dean of Students