I write today to pass along the video President Ryan shared last night on social media, outlining some new temporary restrictions the University has put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 within our community. You can view it here.
The changes we are making are simple, and they apply for the next two weeks to all University students learning in Charlottesville this semester:
- All gatherings, either on or off Grounds, must be limited to 5 students, down from the prior limit of 15. Students will still be able to gather safely outside, including on the Lawn, but will have to do it in groups of 5 or fewer, and remain at least 6-feet apart. Certain exemptions for instructional activity directly tied to an academic program or class, athletics, club sports and IM-Rec sponsored activities, and religious services as set forth in SEC-045 will still apply.
- All students will be required to wear masks at all times, unless they are in their rooms, eating, exercising outdoors, or exercising in accordance with the guidelines at one of our on-Grounds IM-Rec facilities. This includes when spending time around roommates or housemates, an important new requirement.
- For students, we urge no travel outside of Charlottesville, unless truly necessary, and similarly discourage inviting visitors from outside Charlottesville.
As President Ryan said yesterday, these new restrictions are a direct response to an increase in cases within our community. We recognize that most of you are doing the right thing. However, we are taking these steps in the hope we can keep our semester on track without the need for more stringent changes like curfews or a shift to all-online instruction.
Since last night, we’ve received some follow-up questions from students, parents, faculty, and staff. I’d like to address a few of them.
Regarding the new restriction on gatherings, the limit of 5 applies to students indoors and outdoors, on and off Grounds. If you live in a suite or house with more than 5 people, we recognize you may at times exceed 5 people together but ask that you avoid any non-resident visitors. If you are planning an activity on the Lawn or another open setting, you should limit that activity to 5 people. If you enter a bar or restaurant and it is impossible to gather in a group of 5 and maintain 6-feet between all people at all times, you should leave. One option would be to pick up food to take out and eat in open spaces where you can maintain an adequate distance.
As we say above, certain exemptions may apply for certain activities, but that does not include residence halls, houses, apartments, or social gatherings.
With respect to our masking requirements, we recognize wearing a mask at all times is difficult; however, it is the most powerful tool we have to stop the spread of the virus. By increasing our use of masks within the entire community, we can prevent additional cases and make it easier to lift these new restrictions after two weeks.
As it relates to travel and visitors, the policy for this semester has always been to discourage unnecessary personal travel and limit visitors to Grounds. We recognize some UVA students have significant family commitments, job interviews, medical appointments back home, research needs, or other important business that may require travel. We also recognize that students with children may have childcare needs that require traveling to see family or inviting visitors from out of the area. Our guidelines do not require you to cancel all such planned commitments. If you choose to travel, we encourage you follow masking and physical distancing precautions and check local health and CDC guidance.
The goal of this policy is to discourage unnecessary trips between different universities, to home and back, or to other places that could increase chances for members of our community to carry the virus with them or bring it back to Charlottesville. In short, we recognize that some students have important plans that can’t be changed, but we also urge you to re-schedule things that are flexible and please not make any new travel plans for the next two weeks.
As President Ryan noted last night, in-person classes and other instructional activities will continue as planned during this two-week period. Additionally, these policies apply primarily to UVA community members living, learning, and working in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area, although all students, faculty, and staff should be taking extra steps to keep themselves and others safe no matter where they are. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact the Return to Grounds information center at ReturntoGrounds@virginia.edu or 833-454-6902.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the strain of this moment on all of us, particularly our students who are trying to adapt to this unprecedented moment and continue their studies at the same time. We recognize the difficulty this virus, and the University’s actions to limit its impact, create for you. We will continue to offer resources for students experiencing added stress, anxiety, or other mental health impacts as a result of the challenge and uncertainty of this moment.
On behalf of the administration here at UVA, I want you to know all the steps we are taking with respect to containing the virus are driven by the advice of public health officials. We all share the same goal of living, learning, and working together as much as possible, while keeping ourselves and the people around us safe. Right now, that means sticking to these policies closely so we can reduce the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community and ease these restrictions as soon as possible.
Allen W. Groves
University Dean of Students