CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The University of Virginia is sharing more steps it is taking to keep everyone safe this fall. The plan lays out a list of actions students are required to take before returning to grounds and it includes taking a mandatory COVID-19 test provided by the university.
“These plans are the result of months-long planning process, engaging experts all around the university in public health,” said University spokesperson Brian Coy.
With both in-person and online classes scheduled to start in just over a month, UVA is telling its students what they must do before coming back to Charlottesville. Among the list of mandatory actions for students is submitting a negative COVID-19 test to the university within seven days of returning to school.
“I’m a little bit concerned about the at-home testing just because I’ve heard it’s really hard to do by yourself - and do correctly by yourself,” said rising fourth-year Arianna Asquine
The tests will be mailed out by UVA, which says the results will be available in 24 to 48 hours.
Meanwhile, they have quote strongly recommended a two-week quarantine before coming back, but that is not mandatory.
“I only hope they’ll quarantine because we have a large out-of-state population from Texas, Georgia, Florida, New York,” said Eve Hammerle, a rising fourth-year student.
This announcement comes as many in the community, including Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker and Democratic candidate for Congress and UVA physician Cameron Webb, shared concerns about having UVA students come back.
“I, for one, do not understand why the students are coming back into the community from all over the globe, and why we would take that chance,” Walker said on Monday.
“UVA students traditionally have operated in somewhat of a bubble from the community more broadly in a lot of ways,” Webb said on Wednesday. “And I think some people are betting on that bubble. I don”t know that I would bet on that bubble.”
Coy says for the plan to be effective, everyone has to buy in.
“I think if you look at the plan that we’ve put out today, it’s clear we’re taking this seriously. It’s clear that we’re devoting considerable resources to the measures that we’re taking to keep people healthy and safe,” he stated. “But it’s also clear that there’s an expectation and a role to play for our students and for the entire UVA community.”
Once students are back on grounds, the university will send out daily symptom checks through email or an app. More details on how they will enforce these daily checks will be announced soon.
“I think [symptom checks are] a good idea if people actually followed it,” Francesca Grazioli, a rising first-year said. “I doubt that a bunch of 20-year-olds will consistently be checking their symptoms on an app.”
Rising third-year Leo Zhang says he still has some questions.
“I think I’m just uncertain about how student organizations, specifically Greek life, is going to impact COVID cases and how the university operates,” Zhang said.
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News Release Office of University Communications
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., July 16, 2020 — The University of Virginia today announced plans for the safe return of students, faculty and staff to Grounds and for the safe operation of the fall academic semester – including mandatory virus testing for students.
The plan details requirements for students prior to returning and sets expectations for behaviors that minimize the risk of infection or spread of COVID-19 for all members of the University community. It includes information on UVA’s protocols and practices for testing, monitoring, quarantining, and ongoing health and safety measures.
“The information we share today is comprehensive, but its message is simple: Tackling COVID-19 is a challenge, but we will have a successful return to Grounds if we pull together and take the individual steps necessary to keep ourselves and the people around us safe,” Provost Liz Magill and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis said in announcing the plan details.
Students will return to Grounds in August. Undergraduate courses begin Aug. 25, and in-person instruction will conclude by Thanksgiving. Following the holiday, students will not return to Grounds for the spring semester until after the new year.
Key components of UVA’s COVID-19 Prevention, Detection and Response Plan, which is subject to change as conditions evolve, include:
Student Testing and Quarantine
All undergraduate and graduate students planning to be on Grounds must submit a negative COVID-19 viral PCR test result before returning. Students also are strongly recommended to self-quarantine for 14 days prior to returning.
Students unable to self-quarantine should minimize contact with others during the two-week period. The student should avoid large social events and interacting with more than a few people at a time, and remain vigilant in physical distancing, the use of face covering, wash hands frequently, and avoid touching the face without washing hands.
Due to the inability to send testing kits abroad, international students traveling from outside the U.S. are required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the country as they wait for results. The University will provide additional information in the coming weeks for international students.
Mandatory Virus Testing
Students will obtain a free test kit through a vendor used by UVA and take the test at their home.
The University will notify students of the test availability in the coming weeks, via an online portal that provides instructions for ordering and returning the tests. Each student will self-administer a COVID-19 test about seven days before returning to Grounds. Results will be available 24 to 48 hours after the laboratory receives the sample.
The lab will provide students their results through an online portal and will notify UVA Student Health of test results. A negative test is required for students to return to Grounds.
Those who test negative will be cleared to return to Grounds, but will also be expected to continue to self-isolate and follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines for physical distancing, use of face masks, hand washing and limiting contact with others.
Students who test positive will be asked to self-isolate at home, consult a local health care provider immediately, and will not be cleared to return to Grounds. Per CDC recommendations, they should self-isolate for 10 days after the date of a positive test or for 10 days after the development of symptoms (whichever is longer). Students will be cleared to return to Grounds after completing the mandatory self-isolation.
All positive tests will be reported to the local health department in the area where the test was performed to identify possible contacts who may be at risk for infection and may require quarantining.
Ongoing Health and Safety Measures
As part of its overarching health and safety plan, UVA will require all students and employees to complete training that provides key information about what is necessary to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19. At the conclusion of this training, students and employees will be required to acknowledge the risks presented by the virus and agree to abide by the safety protocols.
Ongoing public health measures include:
- Daily health check: Students, faculty, and staff planning to be on Grounds will complete a daily check on symptoms related to COVID-19 through an app or by email.
- Social distancing/face coverings: Those on Grounds are required to follow the University’s policy on face coverings and maintain a minimum of 6 feet separation, judged from head to head, for any contact with others longer than 10 minutes, unless closer proximity is allowed by physical barriers. Ten-foot separation is required during exercise.
- Provision of supplies: UVA will provide two cloth face coverings for each employee in the Academic Division. For students, the University will provide two cloth face coverings, two 2-ounce containers of hand sanitizer and a touch-tool to assist in tasks such as opening doors and punching keypads, hands free.
- Cleaning and disinfecting: The University will place 2,600 free-standing hand sanitizer stands in high-traffic common areas, plus an additional 1,000 one-gallon containers in spaces that don’t receive the free-standing units. The University has also purchased a supply of sanitizing wipes and disposable face coverings.
- Transit services: University Transit Service passengers and drivers are required to wear a face covering, and bus loading capacity has been reduced from 50 to 20. Service hours will be reduced to allow for enhanced cleaning/sanitation of the fleet midday and after hours.
- Dining services: Dine-in options will be limited in all dining facilities, with seating capacity reduced by 50%. Buffet service will be eliminated, while options for take-out and mobile ordering will be expanded.
- Symptomatic testing: Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 will be asked by the University to get tested immediately as well as to self-isolate while the test result is pending.
- Outbreak testing: If there are outbreaks of cases in particular areas of Grounds, UVA will ask those who have spent time in these areas to be tested because they will have been at higher risk for contracting COVID-19.
- Asymptomatic testing: Those who do not exhibit symptoms but would like to be voluntarily tested will have the option to do so no more than once every 60 days, unless prior authorization is obtained from Employee Health or Student Health.
Case Management and Containment
- Contact tracing: If a student or faculty or staff member is identified through contact tracing as having had close contact with an infected individual, they will be referred for testing by the Virginia Department of Health or their health care provider. UVA will partner with VDH to facilitate the referrals and the testing.
- Isolation and quarantine: UVA plans to isolate students living on Grounds who test positive, and to quarantine students living on Grounds who have been exposed to someone with a positive diagnosis of COVID-19. Students living off-Grounds will be expected to quarantine or isolate at their off-Grounds housing. Students who can safely travel home to isolate or quarantine will be encouraged to do so. Employees will need to isolate if they test positive for the virus, and to quarantine if exposed. Find health department guidance here.