COVID-19 update: Cases low, plans for fall unclear

Sophie Kidd

As Spring Term winds down, the Washington and Lee COVID-19 Committee continues to solidify guidelines for the fall semester.

COVID-19 cases have remained low throughout the four-week term, with only five community members testing positive since students returned from spring break. Only one of those was an undergraduate.

The environment level has stayed at yellow-low since April 13.

On May 14, Gov. Ralph Northam dropped most of Virginia’s mask mandates for vaccinated people. As of May 16, 60.01% of employees, 48.5% of undergraduate students and 36.5% of law students have been fully vaccinated, and many more are waiting to receive their second shot.

Despite these promising trends, the Washington and Lee COVID-19 Committee is hesitant to make any promises for the fall.

When asked about the campus protocols for next term, Committee Chair Paul Youngman withheld details.

“We are currently working on those plans right now, so there is not much to say just yet,” Youngman said.

However, campus dining is expected to begin the transition to previous dining options in the fall, which includes ceasing operations at Evans Hall.

“Our expectation is that all retail venues, Marketplace and sorority dining will be operating in the fall,” Ryan Miller, associate director of dining services, said. “Evans Hall will not be operating, as this staff and resources are needed to operate sorority din-ing and catering in the fall.”

This year, dining services opted to use to-go packaging for all meals to prevent the spread of the virus. Miller said students can expect a combination of to-go and reusable service ware next semester.

“The fact is that this pandemic has altered the restaurant landscape for years to come,” Miller said. “The desire for quick, to-go style options is likely not going to disappear overnight. That being said, we do anticipate a return to some form of a normal dining experience in the fall.”

Dining services has not yet determined what social distancing requirements will be in place when students return in the fall but will make a decision closer to the start of the school year.

“We are currently planning for something that looks a little more ‘normal,’” Miller said. “But we also understand how quickly guidance can shift.”