The University of Virginia announced on Tuesday night a litany of health and safety restrictions after reporting its highest single-day spike of new cases of COVID-19. The measures went into effect at 7 p.m. Tuesday and will remain in place until Feb. 26, at which point university leaders will assess lifting them.
The additional restrictions — including a ban on all in-person activities both on and off Grounds — are spurred by transmission of the original strain of COVID-19, not the more contagious U.K. virus strain, which was uncovered within the UVA community on Friday.
In a video message to the UVA community, Dean of Students Allen Groves said the rise of cases is “directly related” to students electing to shirk the university’s COVID-19 guidelines.
“We are seeing transmission in a variety of venues and a variety of ways,” Groves said.
There are currently 376 active cases of COVID-19 in the university community, 364 of which are students. UVA reported 121 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.
The new restrictions also include temporary closures of on-Grounds recreational facilities and libraries. In-person classes and research activities will continue with some modification. Dining facilities will remain open as well, but in-person seating is restricted to no more than two individuals.
Students living on Grounds may only leave their dormitories for essential activities — like eating at dining halls, attending in-person class, participating in COVID-19 testing or engaging in individual outdoor activity. Off-Grounds students are likewise encouraged to remain home unless engaging in an essential activity.
“We do not take these actions lightly, but they are necessary at a time when the virus is more widespread, and it appears members of our community are not adhering to our health and safety protocols as consistently as they did last semester,” university leaders wrote in an email to the UVA community.
The health measures come just two weeks after students returned to Grounds for in-person classes and two days after fraternities and sororities welcomed new members to their organization after a two-week recruitment process that included some in-person aspects.
Inter-Sorority Council organizations elected to conduct recruitment entirely online with the option to have a guideline-compliant in-person “bid day.” Inter-Fraternity Council organizations chose to conduct some aspects of recruitment and bid day in person, provided that such events complied with university and regional health restrictions.
In the event that cases continue to rise, university leaders said that they “will be forced to consider additional measures, including moving all undergraduate classes online and considering the same for graduate and professional schools.”