Dear Undergraduate, Graduate, and Professional Students:
We are now less than two weeks away from the end of the in-person portion of the fall semester. I know this has been a difficult set of circumstances for everyone. I want to recognize the good job so many of you have done to comply with the public health restrictions put in place to protect our shared community. Our response to a rise in cases in September is a testament to a commitment to compliance.
However, we also need to recognize some recent slippage in this commitment. Halloween weekend saw a number of gatherings off Grounds that did not adhere to the requirement of fewer than 10 people in gatherings, consistent face mask wearing and appropriate social distancing. We have followed up in these cases through our student-run judicial system.
Last week, we received a concerning report of a very large gathering of students at a local winery in Albemarle County, in which none of the critical public health requirements were followed by those in attendance. We are looking into this incident with the assistance of the winery, and we hope it does not turn out to have been the super-spreader event we have tried so hard to avoid. This weekend, too, saw a few large gatherings in the Gordon/Rugby area and, once again, we will look to our student-run UJC to address these violations of policy that put the community at risk.
The pandemic is far from over, despite recent promising news in vaccine development and our lower-than-national average case numbers in the local health district. As you know, the number of cases has swelled nationwide and in many spots around the world. Predictions suggest some difficult months lie ahead as the weather turns colder, affording fewer outdoor activities, and the holidays beckon, tempting everyone with travel and family gatherings.
It’s clear the pandemic will continue to be a backdrop to our lives for the rest of 2020 and well into 2021. We have explained our expectation that those of you who plan to leave Charlottesville soon will not return until the start of second semester. We recognize that individual situations vary, but again, we sincerely ask for your compliance in leaving the area for Thanksgiving or Winter Break (unless this is your permanent home) and not returning until late January. Back-and-forth travel puts yourself and many others at risk, especially at a time when cases are increasing and resources are being strained in many parts of the country.
The agreement you signed at the beginning of the fall semester (if you stated you were living and learning in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area) remains in effect throughout this academic year. As I said at the outset of this message, most of you are complying with what must be done to protect yourselves and others, and I’m grateful to you. Since testing will continue for students who have to remain in on-Grounds housing or in the local area, it is vital that you keep your address updated in SIS.
If You Have Symptoms of COVID-19
With a recent, slight increase in cases among students, it’s very important that you pay attention to any symptoms you may be experiencing. If you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19, remain in place and call Student Health and Wellness at 434-924-5362 for guidance. Please do not wait until your next scheduled prevalence test, and do not show up for a prevalence test if you are experiencing symptoms. If you are in the area, you should be receiving and responding to a daily Hoos Health Check email, which will help you remember this symptoms check.
Staying Vigilant and Remembering the Basics
It’s important to continue practicing these very basic precautions, regardless of where you spend December and January:
- Wear a mask when near others.
- Refrain from large gatherings. When at UVA, the limit remains 10 or fewer people.
- Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face. If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Socialize outside, and do not gather inside with those outside of your household.
- Avoid restaurants unless eating is done outside, and masking and physical distancing guidelines are being followed.
- Cancel or limit your travel, and take as many precautions as possible, including limiting your contact with others beforehand, driving instead of flying or taking the train, and minimizing the number of stops you make.
- If you do not feel well, do not travel or gather with others.
New Regulations in Virginia
Everyone spending the holidays in Virginia should be aware of new regulations announced last Friday, Nov. 13, by Gov. Ralph Northam. They include in-person gathering limits of 25 (UVA's limit remains 10 or fewer); an expanded mask mandate; a curfew for on-site alcohol sales, consumption, and possession; and increased enforcement measures.
Walk-In Flu Shot Clinic at the Student Activities Building (through Nov. 23)
This year, more than ever, it’s important to get a flu shot. Now through Nov. 23 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, all UVA students can receive a flu shot at the Student Activities Building on a walk-in basis from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for sufficient antibodies to develop, so students are encouraged to plan accordingly before traveling home. For payment information and additional details, visit the Student Health and Wellness Flu Clinic webpage.
Transitioning from Charlottesville to Your Home Community
Before leaving, you should develop a plan for returning to your home community. Your state or country, for example, may require proof of a negative COVID test for entry. Other things to consider:
- Departure testing for the Thanksgiving break is available to all students, although test results represent only one moment in time. See the Return to Grounds website for details about both mandatory and voluntary testing.
- Appointment times for testing were sent last week to students living off Grounds from UVA Prevalence Testing at [email protected]. Please check your email and spam folder. If you cannot find the email, please write to [email protected] and let them know you are an off-Grounds student who did not receive a testing appointment. If you live on Grounds, the residence hall testing schedule was sent to you earlier this week. You will receive an individual testing appointment notice closer to your test date.
- Minimizing your contact with others before you leave, combined with testing, offers an enhanced strategy to lessen the chance you will unknowingly infect others.
- Negotiating behaviors and boundaries, as you have done with roommates or apartment-mates this semester, may be necessary if you decide to visit friends or family you haven’t seen in a while. Clearly state your expectations prior to any gathering, and continue to be creative in how to socialize safely.
- Isolation or quarantine are still necessary if you test positive or are determined to be a close contact of someone with COVID-19 before leaving. For students living on Grounds, isolation and quarantine spaces will remain available during breaks.
- Information for Students . . . Returning Home for Holidays or Extended Breaks (Virginia Department of Health)
- Be Prepared: Winter Break I/Q (Student Health and Wellness)
Getting Ready for Second Semester
Prior to and upon returning to the Charlottesville area following Winter Break, all students will be required to undergo testing for COVID-19. Similar to the fall, students also will be required to confirm if they are living or learning on Grounds, in the Charlottesville or Albemarle area, or in their home community. You will receive more information about these requirements in the near future.
Planning for 2021-2022 housing. You have plenty of time to consider your options for housing during the 2021-2022 academic year, and you should not feel rushed to make this decision. As you begin discussing options with your families, remember on-Grounds housing offers a number of benefits. This is especially the case for those of you who will be rising second-year students, given that your first-year experience has been nothing like normal. Information about the 2021-2022 application process will be available on the Housing & Residence Life website by the end of this year.
Fraternity and sorority recruitment. Undergraduate students who are interested in exploring Greek life will be able to participate in recruitment activities for each of the four councils in the spring. The Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) and Inter-Sorority Council (ISC) recruitment processes will begin in early February. ISC recruitment will be conducted in a virtual format; the deadline to register is Friday, Nov. 20, at 11:59 p.m. Information about IFC recruitment will be available soon. Most chapters that are part of the Multicultural Greek Council and National Pan-Hellenic Council will be conducting intake in the spring. Please check each group’s website for timelines and deadlines.
Time for reflection. The extended Winter Break offers the opportunity for some self-reflection and mapping out goals you may want to set for yourself second semester. All students, both returning and new, can fill out the Involvement Calculator to find some exciting new clubs and opportunities to get involved. Please see the Student Engagement website.
University Services during the Extended Break
We recognize a small number of students will need to remain in the area if Charlottesville is their permanent home or if they cannot return to their home community. Student Health and Wellness (SHW) will remain open, and students can continue to make telehealth appointments (counseling, primary care, nutrition, and WahooWell), even if they’re not in Charlottesville. After Thanksgiving, SHW will be closed on Saturdays and official University holidays, including from Dec.19-Jan. 3.
Students should understand that many University services will be curtailed during the extended break, but they should not hesitate to reach out for help if they find themselves in difficult circumstances. The Office of the Dean of Students can be reached by:
- Calling 434-924-7133 (ODOS) during weekday business hours for routine matters (the office will be closed from Dec. 21 through Jan. 1).
- Calling 434-924-7166 (Dean on Call) for emergencies or urgent after-hours concerns.
- Writing [email protected], which is monitored weekdays during business hours.
Available services. To keep track of when various offices and services are available, please bookmark the University’s Operations Status Board.
Food insecurity. Any student facing food insecurity during this time should not hesitate to ask for help through UVA’s Food Insecurity Resource Group. As detailed on the group’s website, resources are available through UVA as well as the local community.
Additionally, thanks to a partnership between Student Council and the UVA Parents Fund, any student who will be here for Thanksgiving Break and is concerned about food access can receive a full week of groceries free-of-charge. To take part in this year’s Meal Kit initiative, please fill out the sign-up form and plan on picking up supplies in front of the Student Activities Center on the first floor of Newcomb on Tuesday, Nov. 24, from noon to 3 p.m.
Community Thanksgiving Meal. Any student, as well as faculty or staff member, who will be here over Thanksgiving is invited to join the HoosGiving 2020 community meal on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, from noon to 2 p.m. at Fresh Food Company on the second floor of Newcomb Hall. Both to-go and in-person dining options will be available. All are welcome (you do not need to be food-insecure), but please register by Nov. 20 so UVA Dine can prepare enough food. All COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place.
Cares Act Funding
We understand the extended Winter Break and a later start to the spring semester may have a financial impact on students, especially those on financial aid who may be anticipating a refund at the start of the semester. Since March, funding through the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and institutional funds has enabled the University to provide students with emergency hardship support for expenses related to the disruption of on-Grounds operations due to COVID-19.
Student Financial Services will post an application for Spring CARES Act funding in December so eligible students can request financial assistance to support winter break or J-Term needs for food or other emergency incidentals. All undergraduate, graduate and professional students who are enrolled in courses for the spring 2021 term, and who have successfully completed a FAFSA for the 2020-2021 academic year, can request funding. Those who are not eligible to complete a FAFSA may also fill out the application to be considered for limited institutional funding.
Upcoming Town Hall on Holiday Health and Safety
On Wednesday, Nov. 18, from 4:30-5:30 p.m., parents and students are invited to join a UVA virtual town hall meeting regarding Holiday Health and Safety. Provost Liz Magill and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis will provide brief updates, and Dr. Mitch Rosner and Dr. Costi Sifri from UVA Health will give an update on local conditions around COVID-19 and share health and safety tips for the holidays. Please register in advance to submit questions and receive the Zoom link.
Lighting of the Lawn
Finally, I am happy to announce the student-run Lighting of the Lawn, a tradition established in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, will take place this Thursday, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m. The event must necessarily be all-virtual, but the student committee promises a spectacular evening celebrating the spirt of community and unity. The event will stream on the Lighting of the Lawn website on Thursday evening and will be available for viewing after the event as well.
This year’s Lighting of the Lawn is another tangible example of how the UVA student community has stepped up to deal with our biggest health crisis in decades. I am proud of how the majority of students have stayed the course this fall. You have done your best with new modes of learning, and you have taken seriously the many personal precautions that are essential to fighting the virus. If you remained in your home community, I know you have met similar and other special challenges and worked hard to maintain contact with those on Grounds.
Thank you as we continue to work together. Best of luck with exams, and I hope the Thanksgiving and Winter breaks allow you to spend time with your loved ones safely and in good health.
Allen W. Groves
University Dean of Students
Nov. 19: Lighting of the Lawn (virtual). To watch the livestream, go to the LOTL website.
Nov. 24: Fall courses end
Nov. 25, noon: Residence hall access ends for students who do not plan to return until late January
Nov. 25-29: Thanksgiving Break
Nov. 30-Dec. 1: Reading Days
Dec. 2-11: Exams
Dec. 6 and 9: Reading Days
December (various dates): Spring course registration
Dec. 12, noon: First-year residence halls close
Dec. 12: Winter Break begins
Jan. 4-15: January Term (virtual)
Jan. 14: Spring 2021 term notification of charges
Jan. 16: Winter Break continues
Late January (various dates TBD): First-year residence halls reopen
Feb. 1: Spring courses begin
Feb. 12: Spring 2021 term charges due
Feb. 17: No classes
March 9 and 29: No classes
March 15: Decision about graduation observances
April 15: No classes
May 6: Spring courses end
May 7-15: Exams
May 9 and 12: Reading Days
May 21-23: Class of 2021 Finals Weekend (tentative)
May 28-30: Class of 2020 Finals Weekend (tentative)