COVID-19 policies remain for new year

COVID-19 is back with a vengeance for the 2021-2022 academic year.


Washington and Lee continues to implement COVID-19 policies and regulations in the new academic year. Photo by Lilah Kimble, 23.

Luke Fountain

The new school year has begun, but the threat of the pandemic still lingers.  

Washington and Lee has seen a drastic uptick in the number of daily COVID-19 cases, students in isolation/quarantine (I/Q), and “close contact” cases this week, even though 98% of undergraduate and law students are fully vaccinated, Dean Sidney Evans wrote in an email on Friday.

The rise in cases is impacting testing and masking policies, as well as university COVID-19 assessments. 

On Sept. 16, after the recommendation of the COVID-19 Committee, President Dudley changed the university’s COVID-19 environment level from “yellow-low” to “yellow-middle.” 

Dudley attributed the change to “significant increase in pressure” placed upon the Student Health Center, the (I/Q) capacities on campus, the testing capacity, and the high “transmission rates in the surrounding community.”

Students are now expected to wear masks in common areas in on-campus residences, a change from the beginning of the school year where masks were not required in these spaces. 

The university also began offering PCR tests on Sept. 21 to students, faculty, and staff who wish to be tested. Instead of testing symptomatic people, Washington and Lee is now providing testing “only for individuals who are not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.” 

Changing policies have created confusion among the student body.  No one seems to know the I/Q policies if they test positive or if they are a “close contact.”

Dr. Jane Horton, director of student health and counseling, explained that “close contact” exposure is defined as being within “close proximity” (less than 6 feet) for 15 minutes or more (cumulative in a 24 hour period) with a person who has COVID-19 during the time that person is considered infectious. 

Washington and Lee considers the exposure period to begin two days before the onset of symptoms or a positive test result (if no symptoms), and during the first 10 days of their illness. 

Any student with a positive COVID-19 test: 

– Expected to be isolated for 10 days from symptom onset or positive test date if they have no symptoms. 

– Must not share household spaces with other individuals during quarantine. 

– This usually means moving into campus I/Q housing or going home to quarantine. 

Fully vaccinated students who have a “close contact” exposure to someone with COVID-19 are: – Expected to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days. 

– Wear a mask universally and use distance precautions. 

– Get tested immediately if COVID-19 symptoms develop. 

– Can attend classes and other activities but must mask and distance as above. 

– If no symptoms and negative COVID-19 testing in the timeframe 3-5 days after last exposure, the student can return to usual mask and distance precautions for the remainder of the 14 day observation period. 

– Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to quarantine after a “close contact” exposure. 


Unvaccinated student who has a “close contact” exposure to someone with COVID-19 must: 

– Self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days 

– Get tested immediately if they develop possible COVID-19 symptoms 

– May not attend classes and other activities 

– Must not share household spaces with other individuals during quarantine 

– Usually means moving into campus I/Q housing or going home to quarantine.

 – Recommended time for quarantine is 14 days, but may end after 10 days if the individual has no symptoms and has negative COVID-19 testing 5-7 days after last exposure. 

– Recommends testing as soon as one enters quarantine, and again just prior to the end of quarantine, for extra chances to pick up an asymptomatic infection. 

Horton explained that the current I/Q housing on campus is on the first floor of Baker Hall, half of the first floor of Davis Hall, Gaines apartment, and houses at 224 and 226 W. Nelson St. and 103 McLaughlin St., Peniel Farm. 

The university also has plans if these locations become full, off-campus at either the EconoLodge or Motel 6. Students can also return home to isolate or quarantine as long as they can travel safely to and from without using public transportation that could expose others. 

Horton was asked what type of stress she was feeling as a healthcare worker amidst a pandemic.

“I don’t have time to answer that question right now—too busy,” she said.

Many have also wondered about the student experience in I/Q. 

A first-year basketball player who wished to remain anonymous described being “disappointed to miss out on meeting new people and attending classes” after testing positive for COVID-19 during move-in. 

The player also detailed the mental health challenges created by I/Q and being trapped in a room all day.

“I was lonely for a little while until I met other students in the COVID-19 isolation hall,” the player said. 

COVID-19 policies are likely to change again with “the safety and wellbeing of our campus community… at the forefront of our work” says the COVID-19 Committee, which provides advising and guidance and recommendations to university leadership. Guidelines will adapt and hopefully, the pandemic can come to an end, sooner rather than later.