University eases rules due to low COVID-19 positivity rates during arrival and surveillance testing

Students can now visit one another in their residences as long as they wear masks and social distance.

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  • Students social distance on the Colonnade.

  • Students are required to stay six feet apart and wear face coverings during indoor, in-person classes.

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Nobel Manaye, Vivek Kumar, Jin Ni, and Avalon Pernell

An email from President William Dudley on Sept. 4 announced that students would be able to visit each other in their residences, permitting social distancing guidelines were followed and masks were worn.

Gatherings on or off-campus are still limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

“I almost want to shed a tear,” Katy Blain, ‘22, said.

In the two weeks since reopening the university, students have been under strict guidelines, developed by the COVID-19 Committee with the guidance of the Virginia Department of Health and the CDC. The committee includes Associate Provost Paul Youngman, Department Chair and Professor of Biology Bill Hamilton, among others. 

Key guidelines have included wearing a mask and staying six feet apart at all times on or off-campus, including in academic buildings, common rooms of dorms, and the gym. Students are also required to complete a daily attestation every day before they attend classes or leave their residence. 

“Students were to assume all people [they] come into contact with are infected,” Youngman, the COVID-19 committee chair said.

Students are required to stay six feet apart and wear face coverings during indoor, in-person classes. (Lilah Kimble)








Dudley stressed in his email to students that this was not a time to become complacent, even with the new changes.

“We have arrived at this moment precisely because of the precautions we’ve taken and the care we’ve exhibited for one another,” Dudley wrote. “We need everyone to continue to pitch in, remain vigilant, and do their part to help us remain here on campus together.” 

These changes about a week after the COVID-19 committee upgraded the current campus environment level to mid-level from low-yellow due to lack of compliance with “physical distancing, face coverings and expectations for social gatherings” and the “Daily Attestation requirement.”

“We don’t consider this a relaxation,” Youngman said. “We altered the visitor policy, but that will probably not change further for the rest of the semester.”

But he acknowledged that administrators, alone, could not enforce these policies.

During the first weekend, 65 violations were given in third-year housing. Many were reported this weekend, as well. 

“We have had several reports of student gatherings this weekend that were in violation of the COVID-19 restrictions. These have primarily consisted of outdoor gatherings where students were in close proximity to one another and were not wearing face coverings,” said an email sent by Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Sidney Evans on Saturday.

Students can call public safety or a member of residential life if they see something they believe violates the school’s guidelines.

Sanctions for violations or failure to be respectful to residential life staff  include fines, conduct probation and removal from on-campus classes or housing, said Evans’ email.

One student tested positive during arrival testing and no students tested positive during the first round of weekly surveillance testing, according to the COVID-19 dashboard.