All University of Virginia students will have to submit documentation of a negative COVID-19 test and quarantine for 14 days before returning to Charlottesville for the start of classes next month, the school said Thursday.
The mandatory testing is one of several public health measures UVa announced as it seeks to bring students back for fall classes. Charlottesville and Albemarle County officials have criticized the decision to have in-person classes, saying that it puts the wider community at greater risk for exposure to the virus.
Last month, the university detailed how it planned to bring students back, which includes having a mix of in-person and online classes. That plan is contingent on state and federal guidelines, as well as the status of the pandemic.
UVa is contracting with a vendor, Let’s Get Checked, for the tests, which will be provided at no charge to students who use that vendor, according to the plan. Tests will be mailed to students’ houses and need to be sent to the lab no fewer than seven days before returning to Grounds. Results will be available within 24 to 48 hours after the lab receives the sample.
“The information we share today is comprehensive, but its message is simple: Tackling COVID-19 is a challenge, but we will have a successful return to Grounds if we pull together and take the individual steps necessary to keep ourselves and the people around us safe,” Provost Liz Magill and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis said in announcing the plan details.
Students on Grounds still will be expected to wear masks, follow guidelines for physical distancing, regularly wash their hands and limit contact with others. Those who test positive will be asked to self-isolate at home for 10 days before they can be cleared to return to Charlottesville.
During the school year, anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 will be asked to get tested and self-isolate until the test results are back. Those who don’t have symptoms but want to be tested can do so once every 60 days, or more frequently if prior authorization is obtained from Employee Health or Student Health.
If there’s an outbreak of cases in a certain area on Grounds, those who spent time in those areas will be tested.
The public health measures primarily concern activity on Grounds; however, students are encouraged to follow all state and federal guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.
Earlier this week, Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker and other officials voiced concern about large gatherings of students in bars and apartments this past weekend.
Allen Groves, dean of students at UVa, condemned the gatherings in an email to students Tuesday.
“Please recommit to observing social distancing and wearing masks when in the company of others with whom you do not share a home,” he wrote. “Failure to do so places the most vulnerable at significant risk and will likely lead to an end to on-Grounds education this fall.”
In addition to the negative tests, all students are asked to quarantine for 14 days before returning to Grounds. Those who are unable to self-quarantine should minimize contact with others during this 14-day period, the university said.
“Specifically, the student should not attend any large social events or interact with more than a few people (3-5) at a time,” officials wrote, adding that students should follow physical distancing guidelines and other mitigation strategies such as hand-washing and wearing a mask.
International students traveling from abroad are required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the United States.
The university will not restrict students’ travel after they move back to the Charlottesville area. However, officials recommend that students remain in the area.
Students and employees also will be required to complete training about how to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus.
“These steps are crucial to keep members of the UVa community and our Charlottesville neighbors safe, and we ask that all students take responsibility for protecting our numerous faculty, staff, students and neighbors who are at high risk of serious COVID-19 complications,” university officials wrote in the public health measures.
UVa classes start Aug. 25, and in-person instruction will end by Thanksgiving. Each employee will receive two cloth face coverings, while students will receive two masks and two 2-ounce containers of hand sanitizer.
The university is planning to place 2,600 hand-sanitizer stands in high-trafficked areas and implement enhanced cleaning protocols. Before and after classes, faculty and students will be required to wipe down podiums, surfaces, desks, chairs and tables with disinfecting supplies provided in the rooms.
Students, faculty and staff planning to be on Grounds will have to complete a daily health check of symptoms related to COVID-19 through a phone app or by email.