January 23, 2022

COVID update with results of entry testing

Dear fellow Eagles,

It is with a profound sense of relief and gratitude that we share results of our entry testing that took place on Sunday, January 9. As a community, we had relatively low numbers of positive cases, resulting in a positivity rate of about 6%. With the omicron variant still spreading quickly across the Commonwealth, we are grateful for your commitment to the various mitigation strategies you have used, both here and at home. Your commitment to getting vaccines and boosters if you are able, consistent masking, and thoughtfulness when interacting with others has set us up for what we hope will be another successful in-person semester at UMW. Keep up the great work and remain vigilant in your efforts!

Based on the outcome of our entry testing, we are moving forward with our stated plan of beginning in-person classes tomorrow. Our Public Health Advisory Working Group, which has been working tirelessly over the last few weeks to prepare for the semester, will continue to consult with our local healthcare and public health partners to monitor and assess conditions. Modeling indicates we have not reached the peak of this latest surge as a region, so we will continue to monitor our own cases carefully.

For now, classes will begin in-person tomorrow unless specific faculty have announced otherwise. Students: Please regularly check your email and Canvas for updates from your professors.

Here are a few additional updates:

Weekly testing. Next week, we will continue weekly testing of any person who is not up to date on their vaccines. This will include faculty, staff, and students who are not vaccinated or are eligible for the booster, but have not yet received it.

Randomized surveillance testing. As mentioned in our previous correspondence, we will begin randomized testing of individuals who are up to date on their vaccines. This process will be announced next week.

KN95 masks available. UMW has acquired a supply of KN95 masks for distribution. Students who need a higher quality mask may obtain one at no cost from the University Center’s Information desk, beginning tomorrow and during times when the desk is staffed. Academic and administrative departments may request masks for their employees through the Facilities work order system.  Remember that cloth masks alone are not very effective in the face of omicron; however, double masking is also a good solution to increase the quality of protection.

Dining. For the time being, dining will continue to only offer take-out/grab-and-go options. We will reassess on a weekly basis with hopes of returning to in-person dining as soon as it is feasible to do so.

In addition, please review our Spring 2022 FAQs for a more comprehensive look at our mitigation plans and important clarifications. The FAQs address the many questions you have posed over the last several days with regard to boosters, masking, entry and weekly testing (including the addition of random surveillance testing of vaccinated/boosted population), updated quarantine and isolation protocols, and additional efforts to maintain a healthy campus. More information regarding instruction, dining, and upcoming events is also outlined in the FAQs.

Thank you again for your ongoing commitment to the wellbeing of this community. If you haven’t done so, please respond to the booster survey as this will assist us in our testing and quarantine efforts. (A reminder went out this week to anyone who has not yet completed the survey). Continue to be thoughtful of your interactions and be sure to mask up when you are around others.

 

With gratitude,

Troy Paino, President

Juliette Landphair, Vice President for Student Affairs

Jeffrey McClurken, Chief of Staff and UMW COVID Director

Paul Messplay, Vice President for Administration and Finance

Tim O’Donnell, Interim Provost

Shavonne Shorter, Associate Provost for Equity and Inclusion & Chief Diversity Officer

Susan Worrell, Interim Vice President for Advancement

Spring 2022 COVID Plan Update

Dear Students, Staff, and Faculty,

As you begin your winter break, we write to share preliminary plans for the spring semester. The ever-changing landscape of the pandemic continues to require us to be adaptable and, as such, the Public Health Advisory Working Group will continue to keep a close eye on prevailing conditions as we enter into 2022.

As a result of the University’s comprehensive approach to combatting the virus, including the high vaccination rates within our campus community, we were able to support a cautious, yet robust, fall semester of curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities. The number of COVID-19 cases on campus this fall remained manageable, despite the presence of the Delta variant and high local community transmission rates. Since the first of August, 128 members of the campus community have tested positive for COVID-19 – 109 students and 19 staff and faculty members. Forty of the 128 cases occurred before Labor Day and we saw about 20 during the two weeks after Thanksgiving. Other than these two time periods, weekly cases remained in single digits.

As we plan for the spring semester, we are heartened both by our experience this fall and by important developments in the ongoing effort to curb this pandemic. Booster vaccines are now available for everyone age 16 and over, and initial vaccines have been authorized for children who are five and older. Also, there is promising news about antiviral medicine under consideration by the FDA that may reduce hospitalization rates and severe illness.

The course of the pandemic remains unpredictable, particularly as we await more information about the emergence of the Omicron variant. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and gather medical and scientific information as it becomes available. As a result of this recent development and ongoing high rates of community transmission, a number of our established COVID-19 interventions will remain in place for the spring semester. At the same time, others will change, as needed, to meet prevailing conditions.

The following interventions will remain in place for the spring 2022 semester:

  • Vaccines. At present, the University continues to require all students, faculty, and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 unless an approved exemption has been submitted. All students, faculty, and staff are expected to report their vaccine status to the University. More information about this requirement and how to report your status is available in our FAQs. If you are not currently vaccinated, we strongly encourage you to get vaccinated if you are able.
    • Boosters. If you are fully vaccinated, we urge you to get a booster six months after your last dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two months after your dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Given the potential for waning protection against infection from the Delta variant and with the emergence of the Omicron variant, the CDC recommends that everyone over 16 get a booster shot when they are eligible. At this time, we are not collecting booster documentation, but we will let you know if and when that changes.
  • Symptomatic Testing and Exposure Testing. The Student Health Center will continue to provide COVID-19 testing for students who exhibit symptoms that may be indicative of COVID-19. We will also continue to provide COVID-19 testing at Bushnell Hall for students, staff, and faculty who are identified as close contacts of a member of the campus community.
  • Mandatory Weekly Testing. All members of the University community who are not fully vaccinated will need to participate in weekly testing for the spring semester. Unvaccinated faculty and staff will begin the week of January 3 at the Lee’s Hill clinic of Mary Washington Hospital, 10401 Spotsylvania Ave #103 (available M-F). Unvaccinated students will begin weekly testing the week of January 17 unless they did not participate in re-entry testing on January 9 (described below). Testing will continue to take place in Bushnell Hall on Mondays (if it falls on a holiday, then Wednesday) and Thursdays. Students who have schedule changes will be able to select a new weekly time from available options.
  • Contact Tracing and COVID Care Support. The University will continue to conduct full case investigations for any COVID-19 case involving a member of the UMW community and will make contact with known close contacts. On-campus quarantine and isolation spaces will remain available for any residential student who tests positive or is instructed to quarantine based on their vaccination and exposure status, if they choose to remain on campus for that period. Our COVID Care team will continue to provide support to on-campus Q/I spaces with meal delivery and routine check-ins.
  • Masks. With the uncertainty of the Omicron variant’s effect, we will continue to require anyone entering a University-owned or operated building, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask. We will keep monitoring conditions as well as federal, state, and local guidance to determine if and when this mandate will be lifted.
  • Events. While the University has returned to as much in-person engagement as possible, it is important to recognize that the greatest risk still occurs where there are large numbers of people gathering indoors and when masks are not consistently worn. Events where food and drink are consumed are still discouraged due to the inherent risks. As you plan events that involve food, drink, and/or include non-UMW community members, consult with the Public Health Advisory Working Group (through Dave Fleming) to ensure all possible mitigation strategies are considered.

Other COVID-19 interventions will be adjusted as necessary to meet prevailing conditions on campus, including the following:

  • Re-Entry Testing. We have coordinated with the Virginia Department of Health to provide PCR testing to our students on Sunday, January 9, 2022 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. All residential students as well as any student who is not fully vaccinated will be expected to participate in this testing event. Vaccinated off-campus students will also be able to participate, based on availability. All individuals expected to test will be sent more detailed instructions to their UMW email. Concerns about complying with the reentry testing expectation should be directed to covidtesting@umw.edu.
  • Mask Exemptions. During the course of the fall semester, a committee was formed to review mask exemption requests for the variety of performances that occurred on campus. This committee will continue to review any request for performers, speakers, and special events to be exempt from the indoor masking requirement. The requester must be able to demonstrate that the performance or task is significantly inhibited by the use of a mask.
  • Fitness Center Changes. The staff at Campus Recreation worked over the course of the fall semester to develop a plan that would allow for limited mask removal during active exercise within the Fitness Center. After a thorough review, the plan was approved and will be communicated with all individuals accessing the Fitness Center. It is our hope and goal to increase use of this important wellness resource by removing a potential barrier to exercise. We will evaluate any impact to our COVID mitigation and adjust if necessary.
  • Stricter Enforcement of Non-compliance. While the majority of our campus community has put forth a good faith effort in complying with COVID-19 related policies, procedures, and expectations, we did observe a marked increase in non-compliance of mandatory testing and indoor masking, particularly at the end of the semester. As such, the public health team is working to establish clearer expectations and consequences to be upheld in the spring semester.
  • Recommitment to ASPIRE Values. It is not lost on us that everyone is tired of COVID-19 and the ongoing restrictions and expectations. There are also some who do not agree with the mitigation strategies at UMW, and we do not expect to make everyone happy. We saw increased reports of faculty and staff (including student staff) being met with hostility as they attempted to enforce these policies. The mistreatment of any individual at UMW, however, will not be tolerated; it simply isn’t what it means to be an Eagle. We all have to be in this together to maintain a physically and mentally healthy campus community, and it is our expectation that you treat others with dignity and respect, even when you are upset or disagree. Reports of these types of incidents will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct (for students) or Human Resources (for employees) and will be resolved through the respective processes.

We hope you have a wonderful winter break and we very much look forward to your return in 2022. Stay heathy, Eagles!

Jeffrey McClurken, Chief of Staff & UMW COVID Director

David Fleming, Assistant Dean for Residence Life & Housing, COVID Monitoring & Tracing Coordinator, Chair of Public Health Advisory Working Group