The University is planning for a return to in-person instruction and activities and significant reduction in gathering, travel and visitor restrictions for fall 2021, University leadership announced in a spring 2021 update email Thursday. The announcement was shared by University President Jim Ryan, Provost Liz Magill and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis.
University leadership said its plans are based on the expectation that vaccines will be “widely available” by the beginning of the fall semester and that the virus will not be as widespread. The Blue Ridge Health District is currently in phase 1B for vaccine distribution, which includes all frontline workers, people over the age of 65, people aged 16 to 64 at high risk for COVID-19 and those living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters and migrant camps. Vaccinations for phase 1c — which includes more categories of essential workers — are expected to open shortly.
The Commonwealth has administered 3,850,838 doses of the vaccine as of Thursday, the Virginia Department Health reports. Thirty percent of Virginians have received at least one dose, amounting to 2,565,265 individuals. Sixteen percent are fully vaccinated, amounting to 1,375,802 Virginians. An estimated 35 percent of the BRHD — or 90,093 people — has been vaccinated with at least one dose.
University officials also said there may be a need to continue some public health guidelines, but they will be “much less restrictive” than those in place currently. Throughout the pandemic, the University has restricted gatherings to 25, 15, 10, six and five people, and had to issue a ban on all in-person gatherings that was in place for 10 days this spring after a spike in cases.
“This good news would not be possible without students, faculty, staff and parents who have overcome the challenges of the past year with grace and ingenuity,” the email said. “We are not quite out of the woods yet, but we have finally reached a point where we can envision a return to much more normal conditions of in-person learning, working and research.”
According to the update, the “default assumption” is that in-person activities will resume normally — classes will be taught fully in person and students, faculty and staff will return to living and learning in Charlottesville. According to the email, exceptions for students with travel limitations or health concerns will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
This semester, about 27 percent of classes included an in-person component. Any student who wanted to live and take classes remotely at home this fall and spring was given the option to do so.
Libraries, dining, recreational centers and student activities facilities will open fully in the fall and will continue to follow all University and state health protocols deemed necessary. Hand-sanitizers and enhanced cleaning procedures will remain in place across Grounds.
“The U.Va. community’s response to the pandemic has produced many innovations in how we conduct the University’s business — from teaching, to working, to research, to operations,” the email said. “Many individuals across Grounds are working to capture lessons and new practices that could continue to benefit the University, our workforce and our students going forward.”
The email said University administration will continue to provide additional updates in the coming months with more detailed plans and specific information as students, faculty and staff begin to plan for the fall. A full update on health and safety plans will be released no later than July 15, according to the email. The University calendar currently lists fall classes as starting Aug. 24.