Newsletter: A Message from UVA’s Senior Leadership Team
Earlier this month, we delayed the opening of undergraduate residence halls and the start of in-person undergraduate classes by two weeks. We did that to assess the spread of the virus, which was concerning to us, and to resolve some difficulties with the testing supply chain. It also allowed us to observe the early experiences of other universities, which have been quite mixed.
Today, we write to let you know that we are moving forward as planned. We plan to welcome students to residence halls beginning in early September and to begin in-person instruction for undergraduates on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
We know some will be delighted to hear this news and others will be disappointed. To be frank, it was a very difficult decision, made in the face of much uncertainty, and with full awareness that future events may force us to change course. Let us explain our rationale.
To begin, we believe the effort is worth it. Some critical parts of a college education cannot be replicated online. Some academic instruction, for sure, can be just as effective online; in other cases, it’s a challenge. Regardless, we know that the college experience is also about what happens outside of the classroom.
Especially at this university, a key part of that experience is the opportunity for our students to step out on their own, in a caring and protective environment, to find their own interests, to define their personal commitments, and to form friendships that will sustain them for many years, if not a lifetime. This is quite difficult, if not impossible, to do online.
Second, conditions locally and in Virginia have improved in terms of the prevalence of the virus, and concerns about the supply chain for testing materials have been addressed.
Third, we had a very encouraging experience over the summer, when thousands of students returned to Charlottesville and to Grounds. They included students working in labs, nursing and medical school students, student-athletes and now include all graduate and professional students. There is also a very large number of undergraduate students already in Charlottesville. It’s clear that the vast majority of students, faculty and staff are taking this seriously and following health and safety protocols. We have seen an uptick recently in cases at UVA, but that is to be expected with roughly 15,000 students already in Charlottesville, and the case numbers remain manageable.
Fourth, we’ve learned from what has happened at other schools. Over the last few weeks, we’ve developed more ambitious testing plans, created additional spaces for isolation and quarantine, and focused on communicating behavioral expectations. We’ve also learned that most outbreaks have been tied to off-campus gatherings, not to on-campus housing and not to classrooms. Indeed, our public health experts believe that classrooms are very low-risk environments. If we were to go all online and close our dorms, we would not be addressing the challenges that we have seen on other campuses.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the vast majority of our students will be here in Charlottesville, living in private houses and apartments, regardless of whether classes are all online or not. By welcoming our students into classrooms and on Grounds – with adequate testing, rules about gatherings and mask-wearing, and enforcement – we will be in a better position to monitor what’s happening and to contain any outbreaks. In short, given that most of our students are going to be here, we believe it will be better for everyone, including our Charlottesville neighbors, if our students feel connected to our community rather than apart from it.
We have made every effort to open the residence halls safely. To begin, our dorms for undergraduates will only be only two-thirds full – housing roughly 4,400 students, most of whom are first-years. We have modified the dorms to make social distancing easier, and we have plans to monitor wastewater coming out of dorms. If we find evidence of a potential outbreak, we will test everyone in the dorm.
We know some will disagree with this decision, which we deeply respect. We understand the concerns and share them. We care about the health and well-being not just of our faculty, staff, and students, but of our neighbors in the Charlottesville region. There are no easy answers here, and there are no risk-free paths. And while we can’t expect to persuade all who disagree, we can tell you that we have listened to all perspectives, have given this a great deal of thought, and are making what we believe is the best decision at this moment in time. And that is the decision to give this our very best effort.
It will not be easy. We know people will contract the virus and some will get sick. There will likely be outbreaks that we will have to work to contain. And it may be that we will have to change course. One thing we have learned from this virus is that you can do everything in your power to plan and prepare, but it still might not be enough, as things can change rapidly. That is why we will continue to monitor conditions closely and, if necessary, will put more restrictions in place, move classes online, and, if need be, send students home.
This will be a challenge for the entire UVA community and one that will require all of us doing our very best, every day, to make smart decisions, to care and look out for each other, and to follow the health and safety protocols. But with your best efforts and those of your friends and colleagues, we believe we have a chance to make this work. This semester will not be easy, as we have said, but the UVA community has faced challenges before. Let’s meet this moment, and this extraordinary challenge, together.
Jim Ryan President
Liz Magill Provost
J.J. Davis Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
K. Craig Kent Executive Vice President for Health Affairs
PUBLIC HEALTH MEASURES
COVID-19 Dashboard Provides Timely Metrics
Visit the new UVA COVID Tracker on the Return to Grounds website for the latest public data on COVID-19 at the University. The dashboard will be updated daily, Monday through Friday.
Update on Pre-Arrival Testing
The University’s COVID Tracker does not include results from tests that students took from home in advance of their return to Grounds. As of yesterday, the University has received 16,613 negative tests and 50 positive tests through our testing vendor Let’s Get Checked, for a positivity rate of 0.30 percent.
Testing for UVA Employees and Contracted Workers
UVA is offering free asymptomatic testing on a limited basis to eligible employees in the Academic Division, Medical Center, and University Physicians Group (UPG), as well as contracted workers who are employed by the nine major contractors that have workers on Grounds on a daily and long-term basis. Full-time benefited faculty and staff in the Academic Division, including in the Schools of Nursing and Medicine, who are working on Grounds (not working remotely) and completing the required daily HOOS Health Check are eligible to request a self-test kit. UVA Health will conduct voluntary testing for eligible asymptomatic Medical Center and UPG team members as well as School of Medicine faculty with clinical privileges, residents, and fellows. Additional details will be provided in UVA Today next week. Contracted workers employed by Aramark, BMS, Bright Horizons, Crothall, Exela, KinderCare, Morrison/Compass, RMC, and Towne Park will receive information from their employer about how to request a self-test kit.
Symptomatic employees should stay home and call Employee Health at 434-924-2013 to be evaluated. Employees with no symptoms who have had significant exposure to someone who tested positive should stay home and contact Employee Health if they have not been contacted by the Virginia Department of Health within 48 hours of exposure.
HOOS Health Check and COVIDWISE
Visit the Apple or Google Play store to download HOOS Health Check and use it every day that you will be on Grounds. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can complete your daily health check on the HOOS Health Check website (not compatible with Internet Explorer) or through a paper form for employees. HOOS Health Check is required every day that you are on Grounds and will help you stay focused on your health and direct you to resources if you need them. More details are available in FAQ sections of the Return to Grounds and Students on Grounds websites. Visit the ITS website to troubleshoot technical issues.
We also recommend you download COVIDWISE, the Virginia Department of Health’s exposure notification app. Users who voluntarily download the app can send and receive exposure notifications with other app users based on a positive COVID-19 test result. COVIDWISE is separate from HOOS Health Check and data is not shared between the apps.
Positive Tests Taken Outside of UVA
Employees who receive positive test results outside of UVA Health/ Employee Health are required to notify Employee Health (434-924-2013 or firstname.lastname@example.org) of their results. Students who are living and learning in Charlottesville or Albemarle County and receive positive test results outside of UVA Health/Student Health are required to notify Student Health and Wellness at 434-924-5362.
UVA is offering subsidized back-up care at licensed daycare facilities and with local professional in-home caregivers at discounted rates for all benefits-eligible UVA employees. We understand the growing importance of this need and are actively assessing additional caregiving resources. Check the Caregiving webpage for the latest additions.
Return to Grounds Training Module Deadline
Reminder: The deadline is fast approaching for all Academic Division faculty and staff to complete the required “Return to Grounds” training module before the start of the fall semester. The module explains basic safety standards and behavioral expectations. At the end you will be required to acknowledge that you have reviewed the content and agree to abide by the safety standards as outlined.
Reports for Managers About Training Completion
The Manager – Return to Grounds Training Report provides a list of a manager’s direct reports who are enrolled in the course, as well as their “Content Completion Status.” If you are a manager, please ensure all of your direct reports have a status of “Completed” prior to the start of the fall semester.
Students Reminded of SIS Requirements
Those students who have not completed the COVID-19 requirements should do so as soon as possible. All students – including undergraduate, graduate, and professional – must answer an initial question as to whether they will be living or learning on Grounds, in Charlottesville, or Albemarle County this fall. If they answered yes, then they must complete three requirements, including COVID-19 testing. Students must complete all three requirements before they can move into on-Grounds housing, attend in-person classes, or use University facilities. A message from Dean Groves went to students who had not completed the requirements as of Aug. 26.
New Details on Student Welcome Kits
The University is providing all students who will be living and learning in Charlottesville/ Albemarle this fall with a kit containing two reusable cloth face coverings, two small bottles of hand sanitizer, and a door opener tool. Each student will have multiple opportunities to receive a kit, and we ask that each person take only one kit so that there are enough for all.
Undergraduate students living on-Grounds will receive their kit at their residence hall when they move in.
Undergraduate students living off-Grounds will have several opportunities to pick up their kit on Grounds. Students enrolled in Curry, McIntire, and Nursing will get their kit through their schools. Student athletes will get their kit through Athletics. ROTC students will get their kit through the ROTC program.
Beginning Monday, Aug. 31, other students may pick up their kit at the Information Desk in Newcomb Hall or the first floor desk at 1515 from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day.
Graduate and professional students, except those enrolled in the Engineering School, will get their kit through their schools. Engineering students may pick up their kit at the Information Desk in Newcomb Hall or the first floor desk at 1515 from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day, beginning Monday.
If a student receives an extra kit, they should return it to the Information Desk in Newcomb Hall. All cloth face coverings should be washed before wearing.
Fraternities and Sororities Suspend In-Person Activities
On Aug. 26, the University Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) and Inter-Sorority Council (ISC) released a joint statement announcing that both organizations will suspend all in-person fraternity/sorority sponsored or supervised functions in the interest of protecting the public health of the University and the greater Charlottesville community. The IFC and ISC will enforce this policy with sanctions up to and including recommendation to the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life that the offending chapter be suspended for the remainder of the academic year.