The University extended its mask mandate to the end of the fall semester, with the exception of activities that are “particularly difficult” while wearing a mask, per a University-wide email sent Friday afternoon by Provost Liz Magill and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis. Activities under the exception include cardio exercise inside IM-Rec facilities and some drama performances.
“The threat of the pandemic remains, but our high vaccination rate and low case counts allow us to begin loosening restrictions in targeted areas that will make it easier for members of our community to pursue their studies or other activities important to them,” the email reads.
The decision comes just one day after the University announced that all employees are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8. The mask mandate applies to all students, faculty, employees and visitors inside spaces that are owned or leased by the University. It does not include residence halls or personal residences.
Effective Oct. 27, vaccinated students, members and guests at IM-Rec facilities are permitted to use cardio equipment or participate in group exercise classes without masks. All attendees are still required to wear a mask when not in class or using equipment and are expected to socially distance whenever possible.
Some students participating in for-credit drama, dance and music classes will be permitted to rehearse and perform indoors without masks, provided that they follow specific public health requirements. The University may require individual courses and activities to adhere to various requirements, such as wearing clear masks at final rehearsals for drama performances or fitting brass and wind instruments with bell covers. Final drama performances will not require masks for individuals, so long as the audience is masked.
The Cavalier Marching Band will also now be permitted to play in the stands of Scott Stadium, after a petition circulated by band members garnered more than 8,000 signatures within just a few days.
“The reality that loud cheering in close proximities is encouraged at U.Va. football games defeats the purpose of the playing ban entirely, making it merely performative,” the petition reads. “These restrictions harm the gameday experience for everyone: the football team, the fans and the 270 passionate musicians that make up the Cavalier Marching Band.”
Previously, the band was told that members could not play wind instruments in the stands and were required to be masked.
Additionally, Magill and Davis announced that this year’s Lighting of the Lawn will be held in-person and attendance will be limited to University students, faculty, staff and families.
Traditionally held during December, LOTL began in the wake of the 9/11 attacks as an effort to bring the University community together. Last year, the twentieth Lighting of the Lawn was held virtually in November due to the state of the pandemic and gathering restrictions implemented by the University.
“These decisions are guided by our medical experts, and they are only possible because of the considerable efforts members of this community have made to limit the spread of the virus,” the email reads. “We are optimistic that the policies we have in place will allow us to finish this semester together strong, and we will continue to look for opportunities to offer even greater flexibility to members of our community as we prepare for the spring semester.”
Despite LOTL being held in-person this year, the University announced Oct. 14 that Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn would be canceled for the second year in a row following guidance from public health experts. Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn was also canceled last year in an effort to reduce the risk of spreading the virus in the University and Charlottesville communities.
According to the University’s COVID-19 tracker, there are 45 active cases of COVID-19 in the University community as of Thursday, 17 of which are students. 48 individuals are currently hospitalized for COVID-19 at U.Va. Health.