All students, faculty and staff returning to Grounds for the spring semester are now required to get COVID-19 booster shots, per an email sent Tuesday afternoon by University President Jim Ryan, Provost Liz Magill, Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis and K. Craig Kent, chief executive officer for U.Va. Health. All students and faculty must upload proof of a booster by Feb. 1 to their HealthyHoos and Workday portals, respectively.
Students and faculty taking part in J-term courses, which begin Jan. 3, are encouraged to get a booster shot prior to the start of classes. Any individual who has previously received a medical or religious exemption from the University’s vaccine requirement is also exempt from this booster requirement, though these individuals are instructed to continue compliance with testing and other public health guidelines.
The decision was made after considering recent and projected caseloads, which have been affected by the progression of the omicron variant of the virus.
“It is clear that the COVID-19 vaccines become less effective at preventing infections over time,” the email reads. “In addition, we are concerned about the rise in cases in Virginia and around the globe, as well as the early indications that the new omicron variant is significantly more contagious than previous variants of the virus.”
There have been 4,427 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Virginia in the past 24 hours, with the Blue Ridge Health District reporting 78 new cases. At the University, there are currently 90 active cases of COVID-19, with 49 coming from students. The seven-day average positivity rate for the entire University community stands at 3.65 percent, the highest positivity rate this fall.
Given the current course of the virus, the Biocomplexity Institute’s COVID-19 model projects another peak to occur in Charlottesville during the week ending Jan. 17, with an estimated 675 cases. Should the omicron variant take full control, cases could peak at 2,790 during the week ending Feb. 6.
The first day of the spring semester is set for Jan. 19. The University is monitoring the pandemic conditions and will provide further updates no later than Jan. 14 if changes are necessary.