University President Jim Ryan announced further restrictions for students, faculty and staff living both on and off Grounds in the Charlottesville-Albemarle region in a University-wide email sent Tuesday. The guidelines — which go into effect Wednesday — prohibit gatherings of more than five people, reinforce constant use of face coverings and ban travel and visitors for at least the next two weeks.
“Over the last few days, we’ve become more concerned about the spread of COVID-19 within the U.Va. community,” Ryan said in the video message.
According to the University’s COVID Tracker, there have been 569 cases of COVID-19 since Aug. 17, of which 515 are students and 224 are classified as currently active. Seven new student cases were reported Monday.
Specifically, Ryan said that the University has received reports of a few large student gatherings — both on and off Grounds — and reports of inconsistent adherence to masking and distancing guidelines. On Sunday, Clemons Library closed early following low face mask compliance.
Ryan added that the University has already issued interim suspensions to multiple students who have not complied with public health guidelines and warned that the University will be “more vigilant moving forward.” The University did not immediately respond to an inquiry Tuesday night as to how many suspensions have been issued.
Gatherings are now limited to five people — down from the previous restriction of 15 — whether inside or outside. In-person classes will continue despite the new restrictions, as the University has “no evidence that the virus has been transmitted in classrooms,” Ryan said.
Ryan also asked students to refrain from going into bars and restaurants if they are unable to stay six feet away from others and cited bars as among the highest-risk locations.
Additionally, students are required to wear masks at all times while outside of their residence unless they are eating or are exercising outdoors — unless they are in accordance with guidelines at an IM-Rec facility. Still, Ryan encouraged students to bring a mask with them when exercising outdoors in case they run into someone or cannot maintain a distance of six feet from another individual.
Finally, Ryan asked students to not leave Charlottesville for the next two weeks and to not invite guests into town in an effort to protect those in and outside of the Charlottesville community.
Ryan also said that the University will continue to ramp up its testing efforts and plans to begin its saliva screening program soon, which will allow them to test large numbers of students at multiple locations. So far, the University’s asymptomatic prevalence testing and wastewater testing have identified potential outbreaks in five residence halls — Balz-Dobie, Lefevre, Echols, Kellogg and Hancock.
“I still believe we can do this, but it will take everyone’s very best effort,” Ryan said. “From the very beginning, we have known that this path would be difficult. Some people said we couldn’t do it. Some people still have their doubts. While getting to Thanksgiving is going to be hard, all of you have shown over the last six months that you can do hard things — whether it’s missing graduations and sports seasons, figuring out online classes, or trying to make new friends under extraordinarily challenging circumstances.”
The new policies go into effect Wednesday at 9 a.m.