Today I am writing to inform you that University leaders, in consultation with physicians and public health experts, have decided to continue with these additional restrictions for another two weeks, until Wednesday, October 21st.
When these changes were first announced, we expressed hope that compliance with these new standards would help reverse a worrying trend in the progression of the virus. Since then, a majority of students and members of this community have responded in the way we hoped: by limiting the size of group gatherings to five (5), wearing masks all the time, and avoiding contact with visitors and limiting unnecessary travel.
We have seen some encouraging signs that case numbers within our community may be leveling off as a result of these efforts. However, the numbers are still a little high. By closely adhering to these standards for another two weeks, we can validate the impact of our efforts from the past 14 days and do even more to reduce the prevalence of the virus within our community.
During this upcoming period, we are also planning to use our new saliva testing capability to expand our student asymptomatic prevalence testing program in order to detect cases earlier and prevent additional spread. More information on this expansion of our testing programs will be released soon.
We recognize these temporary restrictions make life at UVA more challenging, but they are a necessary step to keep each other and our Charlottesville neighbors healthy and safe. They are also our best way of ensuring that we can finish this semester on Grounds together without having to turn to more severe restrictions like curfews, quarantines or a shift to all-online courses. We have no intention of leaving them in place any longer than our medical experts believe necessary, and the best way to ensure they are ultimately unnecessary is for each of us to continue to follow them closely at all times.
While these necessary restrictions do limit some ways for students to interact and enjoy life on and off-Grounds, it’s important to remember the many opportunities that remain available to enjoy each other’s company, stay active, and make the most of this unique and challenging semester.
Over one hundred of you attended the (socially distanced and masked) student watch event at Palmer Park (our new softball stadium) for last Saturday night’s football game against Clemson. We plan to hold more of these events as the season progresses. We’ve erected a number of large tents in high traffic areas on Central Grounds, including outside the Alderman and McCormick residence halls, Brown Residential College, Peabody Hall, and across from the Corner restaurant district. These tents are available to you for studying, eating a meal, watching a movie on your laptop, or reconnecting with a few friends.
UPC, the student-run programming board, typically has virtual and in-person events every weekend throughout the school year. If you are a new transfer, first year undergraduate or new graduate/professional school student looking for ways to become more involved, you will want to check out the Involvement Calculator, a tool created to help you connect with student organizations that might be a good fit with your interests. Another way to search for involvement opportunities is to browse the list of organizations on @UVA as well as the Student Organization Sorting Hat (under campus links on the @UVA homepage). You can also connect with student organizations on social media. Many student organizations (called CIOs) are University-wide (e.g., Water Polo Club, Outdoors Club at UVA), while others cater to students in a specific undergraduate, graduate or professional school (e.g., Outdoors at Virginia Law, Darden Soccer Club).
You should also subscribe to The Wahoo Weekender, an email hosted by the Peer Health Educators with activity ideas and events that are happening over the weekend. It also contains excellent wellness and mental health resource links. A Fall Programming Guide prepared by our staff includes a list of resources for both individual students as well as student organizations.
University COVID-prevention policy provides for limited exceptions to the maximum gathering size for certain categories of activities or events. In addition, a procedure is in place for review of a request by any student organization seeking an exception to the five (5) person gathering limit for a specific event or activity.
The Inter-Sorority and Inter-Fraternity Councils are making plans now for annual recruitment, which takes place at UVA after winter break. It is expected at this point in time that much of this will need to be done virtually; additional information will be available later this fall. Some of our National Pan-Hellenic and Multicultural Greek Council chapters are also planning membership intake this semester; however, we anticipate many will conduct intake in the spring. If you’d like to learn more about Greek life at UVA, information about all four councils is available on the Fraternity and Sorority Life webpage.
Lastly, I urge you to look for opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and the beautiful fall Charlottesville weather. IM-Rec Sports recently announced new outdoor programs beginning October 11, including hiking O-Hill and Ragged Mountain, as well as taking out a kayak at Ragged Mountain. IM-Rec Sports is also offering movie nights at the Aquatics & Fitness Center (AFC) pool, a “zombie run” on Halloween, a roommate obstacle course and more. You can see a full list of IM-Rec events and register for them here. If you have access to a car, you can hike the Blue Ridge Mountains (including Humpback Rock and several waterfalls), as well as access kayak, inner tube and paddleboard rentals on the James River and the Rivanna River through private rental companies.
It’s critical to make time to connect with friends in small groups and to get outside and away from the computer screen. Like you, I spend a considerable amount of time on Zoom each day. Each of us needs to make a conscious effort for self-care, both mental and physical.
Thank you, as always, for your commitment to each other and our shared community.
Allen W. Groves
University Dean of Students