COVID-19 update: Positive cases hit an all-time high

The spike was attributed to large social gatherings and parties

Grace Mamon

On Saturday, March 6, the number of COVID-19 cases identified this term surpassed the total number of cases for fall semester. Positive results have only increased since then. 

As of March 13, there were 105 positive cases on campus, a 3.8% seven-day positivity rate. About 80% of the isolation/quarantine space is occupied. 

The environment level was raised to red on March 10, announced in an email from University  President William Dudley to the student body. He attributed the spread to social gatherings and parties. 

Continued spread at the current level jeopardizes the remainder of this term on campus, an in-person Spring Term, and the possibility of in-person commencement activities,” Dudley said. 

March 9 alone saw 23 positive cases, the highest number in a single day all semester. The next day there were another 22 positive cases. 

This spike comes about a week after the university’s two-day break from classes on March 2-3.

New restrictions now limit social gatherings to six people, both indoors and outdoors. And no visitors, including other students, are allowed in undergraduate or off-campus housing. 

But Dudley said in-person classes may continue, as there is no evidence of spread in the classroom. Some sports teams are also still allowed to practice and compete. 

Because on-campus isolation and quarantine space is reaching capacity, students may be placed at hotels in town. 

Dudley addressed the “deliberate and flagrant lack of compliance with contact tracing and I/Q protocols demonstrated by some students.”

“Without effective isolation and quarantine, no amount of testing and early detection can slow the spread of the virus on our campus,” he said in the email. 

He urged students to follow the university protocols, saying the next few weeks will be critical. 

“If we can be vigilant about these simple steps for the next 10-14 days, we will be able to relax these restrictions and look forward to an active Spring Term and in-person commencement for our seniors,” Dudley said. 

The COVID-19 Committee updates have also included a lot of information about vaccines lately. Students are encouraged to register through Virginia’s statewide registration system, if they haven’t already. 

Getting our campus community vaccinated as early as possible remains a priority, and the university will continue to attempt to secure access to vaccines to deliver to students in the Student Health Center,” a March 12 email from the committee said. 

The email also said that Rockbridge County officials signed a lease this week to use an unoccupied building in the College Square Shopping Center as a community vaccination site. 

A survey was conducted through the daily attestation app, asking members of the university community if they were willing to get the vaccine when it became available to them, or if they had already been vaccinated. 

Paul Youngman, COVID-19 Committee Chair, said he could not share the exact results of the survey, but was pleased with the results. 

“I can say that with roughly 90% of people – faculty, staff and students – reporting, the number of folks pledging to get the shot is very encouraging,” Youngman said.