The University announced Tuesday that it is delaying the start of undergraduate in-person instruction and the opening of residence halls by two weeks in response to an increase in local and national coronavirus cases.
All undergraduate courses for the fall semester will now be completely online until Sept. 8, when in-person instruction becomes available. The semester will still start Aug. 25 as originally planned, but the University is urging students who plan to live off-Grounds to delay their return until in-person courses resume.
For students living in University residence halls, they will not be allowed to move-in the week of Aug. 19. Move-in will now occur "several days" before Sept. 8, although students with extenuating circumstances who need to return to Grounds as planned may contact the University to provide alternate housing arrangements over the two-week delay period. A more complete move-in schedule will be released by the University at a later date. The deadline for students to be released from their on-Grounds housing agreement without penalty has been extended to Aug. 24.
This announcement does not impact graduate and professional programs, which will start on time. International students who plan to attend the University in person this semester are being told to arrive in the United States by Aug. 25 in order to comply with quarantine and immigration requirements.
In an email to the University community signed by President Jim Ryan and his executive team, the shift in reopening plans is a result of increased virus transmission in Virginia since the University's original July 17 announcement, as well as supply chain disruptions affecting the availability of testing materials.
In the past week, Charlottesville has seen an increase in six new positive COVID-19 cases a day, and the Virginia Department of Health reports there have been 89,602 confirmed cases statewide as of Monday.
“In response to these conditions, and based on the advice of U.Va. public health experts, we have decided to adopt a phased approach to the fall semester, which we believe will best safeguard the health and safety of our University community and our Charlottesville neighbors and give us the best chance of a successful return to Grounds,” they wrote. “We still plan to welcome all students back to Grounds, but out of caution, we will do it a bit more slowly than originally intended.”
The University plans to implement several health and safety precautions this semester, including virus testing for all students who will be in Charlottesville, virtual daily health checks and requiring all students to wear masks in public spaces. Classroom capacity has also been reduced to comply with physical distancing recommendations and plexiglass shields have been added to classrooms and student spaces.
“Our public-health experts are confident that, with these measures in place, our classrooms will be low-risk environments for our faculty and students,” Ryan and his team wrote in the email.
“The unfortunate truth is that COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, and we must adapt to changing conditions in order to deliver on our missions of teaching, research, service and patient care. At the same time, the health and safety of our community remain paramount,” the email said. “We will continue to track closely key criteria such as viral prevalence rates, hospital capacity, compliance with health and safety measures and the availability of testing materials necessary to our plans for the fall. If we need to change plans again due to the progression of the virus, the guidance of our public health experts, or guidelines from the Virginia Department of Health, we will. For now, we believe that this is the best plan to pursue in the face of the information we have, and we are optimistic that it will enable us to have a safe and productive semester on Grounds.”
The University will hold a virtual town hall this Friday for students, faculty and staff to hear more about its reopening plan. More information is also available on the Return to Grounds website and Fall 2020 Student Resource site.