September 27, 2021

COVID Updates

To all Faculty and Staff:

We made it through the first week of classes! It has been great to see students back on campus, classes starting up again, and all that comes with the start of the fall semester. Of course, it hasn’t been without its bumps and so we want to make sure everyone has the most up-to-date information. [Please read through to the end. There is lots of important information here.]

  • FDA Approval – Last week the Food and Drug Administration has provided full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, removing its EUA status. For those small numbers of students and employees who are not vaccinated, please do get vaccinated now. We know that the emergency approval was a concern for some, but the FDA has provided that full approval now, so contact your local pharmacy, drugstore, health care provider or https://www.vaccines.gov/ to find a Pfizer vaccine today!
  • Masking reminders – In general, UMW community members have successfully returned to masking indoors. We have heard a few concerns expressed, however, especially as people enter buildings or get up from eating or drinking, or enter into spaces with other people. Our Students Care Ambassadors will be coming back this fall to help remind people about the masking policy indoors, but remember that everyone has a role to play in reminding people about masking.
    • Because people have asked and as clarification, appropriate face coverings do not include bandanas. Face shields are also insufficient by themselves. Gaiters can be used but only if they have at least two layers. More on types of masks can be found at the CDC’s site.
  • If you have concerns about COVID enforcement or actions, remember that the Report a COVID Concern is still an option. Please include as much information as possible so that we can address those concerns.
  • Exposure warnings for vaccinated people – new this fall, we are reaching out to vaccinated people who have a known close contact exposure to a COVID positive case with an email about the recent CDC guidance for exposed but vaccinated “to be tested 3-5 days after exposure, and to wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.”  If you get one of these emails, do not panic. It does not mean you have COVID or are even likely to get COVID. It does not mean that you need to quarantine, nor that you need to tell all of your close contacts. Rather, out of an abundance of caution we are letting you know that you should take a few more precautions and get tested if you have any COVID symptoms, and if not, you should still get tested 3-5 days from receipt of the email. Please note, because of privacy regulations we cannot tell you where or how you were exposed.
    • As has been the case, unvaccinated people who are close contacts will need to quarantine for two weeks, per CDC/VDH recommendations. They will be contacted separately.
    • Positive cases will still isolate for 10 days from positive test or start of symptoms, regardless of vaccination status.
    • Please do not ask students to reveal their vaccination status. The HR, Public Health team, and the local health district can do so as part of implementing the vaccination, testing, and contact tracing system, but they are exceptions.
  • We want to point out again that because we are not social distancing, the number of vaccinated and unvaccinated close contact exposures will be much higher for each case than was true last year.
  • Vaccination rates – The good news is that Faculty and Staff are nearly at 91% vaccinated and it looks like students will end up right at about 95% vaccinated. Thank you to all of you for helping to protect the UMW community.

Jeff and Dave, on behalf of the Public Health Advisory Working Group

Fall 2021 Return to Campus Plan

After a quiet summer, our campuses are ready to welcome new and returning students, and we are excited about the semester ahead. In recent weeks, we experienced the freedom and joy gained from highly effective vaccines. At the same time, our enthusiasm has been tempered by the news of a fourth surge of COVID-19 and the emergence of more transmissible and dangerous variants.

The good news is that with 18 months of experience we now have the knowledge and tools to minimize the risk while returning to many of the things that define the UMW experience. And our greatest tool is the high vaccination rates among our students and employees. This is the single most important thing we could all do together to return to the in-person activities that are characteristic of the UMW experience.

This summer, the COVID Implementation Team shifted to a Public Health Advisory Working Group, embedding the work of the group within the offices of Student Health, HR, and Public Safety, as well as our COVID Care team, with leadership from COVID Monitoring and Tracing Coordinator Dave Fleming. Throughout the summer, he has been leading the Public Health Advisory Working Group in preparing for the fall in conversations about vaccinations, testing, masking, and tracing. Jeff McClurken, as UMW’s COVID Director, has been working with the other Public Higher Education COVID Directors and statewide officials at the VDH and the Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce and Trade to clarify expectations, options, and directions for the fall.

Today, we write to share some additional important updates about the fall semester and how we will approach together our return to campus. In doing so, we are informed by ongoing guidance from VDH and the CDC, partnerships with the local Rappahannock Area Health District and Mary Washington Healthcare. Further direction has come from Governor Northam’s announcement on August 5, recent CDC Guidance for IHEs and vaccinated people, along with careful attention to local COVID conditions in the Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania area.

While the full details of our plan are contained in the COVID-19 Preparedness Plan for 2021-2022 Academic Year, here are the key highlights (please note: The Cabinet and the Public Health Advisory Working Group will regularly re-evaluate these guidelines depending on university and local conditions and numbers):

  1. Masks. Besides vaccines, the wearing of a well-fitting mask is highly effective at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, including its variants. Consequently, to start the semester, masks will be required indoors in public spaces, which include all classrooms, laboratories, meeting spaces, foyers and hallways, and auditoriums. Masks are not required in one’s own residence hall room, private offices, other spaces where you are alone, and when eating and drinking. We are also developing a process for limited exemptions to this indoor requirement for certain academic, co-curricular, and physical activities. We strongly recommend wearing a mask when outdoors in large groups.
  2. Mandatory vaccinations. Governor Northam’s directive requires vaccines for all state employees and contractors. While the majority of our employees and contractors have taken this step voluntarily, it is now a requirement. Exemptions to this requirement are limited and all employees who do not provide proof of vaccination are required to complete a COVID-19 test each week as a condition of employment. UMW’s testing of unvaccinated employees begins the week of August 23.
  3. Testing when symptomatic. One of the important changes to the CDC’s guidance in recent weeks is that everyone who has COVID symptoms, regardless of their vaccination status, should stay away from others and get tested. Students can contact the Student Health Center, while employees should consult their health care provider or get tested at a local pharmacy. In addition, vaccinated people who are exposed but are asymptomatic should get tested 3-5 days after their exposure.

We should also be taking sensible precautions for the next few weeks at least as we pay attention to current conditions. For example, utilizing Zoom and other technologies in the routine conduct of business is encouraged and will continue to be supported, especially when it avoids bringing large numbers of people together in-person when there is no direct discernable benefit. An approach that places a premium on in-person experiences (e.g. classes, office hours, and many other activities where being in the same space is uniquely valuable) can be balanced with virtual convenings where possible.

Similarly, for now, even with vaccines and masks, at a time when our region is one where there is substantial or high transmission of the virus, we should be sensible about large (over 150 people) indoor gatherings. This means holding large gatherings outdoors where possible. It also means promoting extra distancing by utilizing larger indoor spaces or taking advantage of streaming options for large gatherings that would typically involve congregation in auditoriums at or near capacity.

The steps outlined above offer us the best chance of resuming a high-quality in-person experience while mitigating the risks in a university community. Currently nearly 90% of our campus community has been fully vaccinated, but we are situated within a region for which the CDC reports substantial or high transmission of COVID-19 and relatively low vaccination rates. As conditions change, we anticipate regular re-evaluation of these modifications and adjusting accordingly throughout the semester and year.

Attached is UMW’s return to campus plan that includes these pieces (and it is linked to UMW’s COVID pages). Updates to the plan will be added to UMW’s COVID pages.

Dave Fleming & Jeff McClurken

 

Renovated and Ready: Virginia Hall Welcomes New Students

For Terrie Gladney Hoelscher ’78, Virginia Hall meant Friday night singalongs at the parlor piano, cramming into the second-floor phone booth and gliding down stairs on a mattress. “She has good bones, and so much character,” Hoelscher said of the building she and generations of undergrads have called home for more than a century. “My […]

Update on campus COVID conditions and vaccinations

Hello all,

We know that many of you have been following developments lately with news of variants and vaccinations as we look to the arrival of students back on campus shortly. Throughout the summer, Dave has been leading the Public Health Advisory Working Group in conversations about vaccinations, testing, masking, tracing, and preparing for the fall. Jeff has been working with the other Public Higher Education COVID Directors and statewide officials at the VDH, Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce and Trade to clarify expectations, options, and directions for the fall. This message is part of an effort to update faculty and staff as we get closer to the start of the semester.

First, we want to acknowledge the fluidity of the current situation and note that we are working with state and local officials to make sure we have the most up-to-date information. That fluidity will mean that some of our fall plans will continue to be in flux, even once the semester starts. We will endeavor to provide regular updates along the way.

Second, we wanted to share the progress we’ve made so far with our vaccination rates for students and employees.

  • We have heard from nearly 91% of our students so far, and we know now that nearly 85% of all students are confirmed vaccinated or in the process of being vaccinated. We are working to learn the status of the remaining 9% and we will be asking some of you to help with that process.
  • We have heard from over 94% of our employees so far, and we know now that 87% of all our employees are confirmed vaccinated or will be fully vaccinated soon. If you are part of the less than 6% who have not submitted the survey letting us know your vaccine status, please fill out the Employee Vaccination Survey. If you are still looking to get vaccinated, check out Vaccines.gov, your health care provider, or take advantage of Giant’s visit on August 18 where they will be offering free Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson’s COVID Vaccines to students and employees.

Third, a reminder that given local COVID conditions and the CDC’s recommendations, we are strongly recommending that vaccinated people wear masks indoors when social distancing isn’t possible. This is in addition to our ongoing requirement that unvaccinated people mask indoors. We are keeping a close eye on those conditions, and we are in conversations with the state and with other schools about potential modifications to those recommendations.

We hope to provide a full plan next week as we keep working on finalizing the vaccination status of our employees and students, continuing our partnership with the local health department and Mary Washington Healthcare, and watching closely the national and local situation.

There will be more of these updates as we move closer to the fall semester.

Best,

Jeff McClurken, Chief of Staff and COVID Director

Dave Fleming, Asst. Dean of Residence Life and COVID Monitoring and Tracing Coordinator

Livestream Session Addressed Return-to-Campus Culture

Faculty and staff attended a live Q&A webinar via Zoom yesterday, as the state entered Phase 3 of the governor’s “Forward Virginia” reopening plan. Called “Commitment to Community,” the session focused on how the University will help students prepare for and commit to behavioral and social expectations and requirements when they return to campus next month.

UMW Chief of Staff Jeff McClurken moderated the livestream event, which featured panelists Vice President for Student Affairs Juliette Landphair, Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker, Assistant Dean for Residence Life and Housing David Fleming, and University Physician and Director of the Student Health Center Nancy Wang.

“We know how much our students want to come back to campus,” Landphair said. “They want to resume their holistic Mary Washington experience as much as possible.”

Landphair explained that establishing a culture of compliance – an environment that encourages adherence to sound public health principles and a purposeful intent to prevent the spread of disease – is a “gating requirement,” or prerequisite to re-opening. In that vein, UMW’s Return to Campus Plan will be submitted to SCHEV for approval and shared with campus on Monday, July 6.

The plan, panelists said, focuses on moving forward the core mission of Mary Washington and builds on existing codes of conduct, as well as the University’s statement of community values, known as ASPIRE.

“We don’t want to see a situation where individuals feel stigmatized in any way,” said Rucker, who has spent the past several weeks speaking with incoming students. “That’s why ASPIRE is also important. We want to celebrate everyone but also make sure that everyone is committed to ensuring that the academic process moves forward as smoothly as possible.”

Students, faculty and staff will be asked to complete training modules focused on “MMDC” – monitoring, masking, distancing and cleaning – and all individuals must pledge to uphold the guidelines.

Among their many questions, employees who tuned in to the hourlong session asked how faculty and staff will be expected to enforce behavioral guidelines, how claimed health exemptions to regulations will be handled and how the University is collaborating with city officials.

The Return to Campus Plan will address many of yesterday’s topics of concern, such as quarantine and isolation, testing and tracing, and communication of positive cases, McClurken said. If questions still exist after reading the document, he encouraged employees to restate them at next week’s livestream Q&A event on Wednesday, July 8, at 3 p.m., via Zoom or YouTube.

Watch yesterday’s Q&A below.

 

 

Retrieval of student belongings

The following message is from the Office of Student Affairs.

To all faculty and staff:

As was described in this April 6 message to students, starting tomorrow and continuing through May 1, individual residential students and their family members will be on campus picking up their belongings. Per state public health guidance and recommendations to colleges and universities about belongings retrieval, our process allows for a limited number of students on campus at a time.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Assistant Dean for Residence Life and Housing Dave Fleming.

Fleming Interviewed About Willard Hall Renovation on WVTF

Dave Fleming, Assistant Dean of Residence Life and Housing

Dave Fleming, Assistant Dean of Residence Life and Housing

Dave Fleming, Assistant Dean for Residence Life and Housing, was recently interviewed by WVTF Radio IQ 88.3 about the recently renovated and refurbished Willard Hall.

And at the University of Mary Washington students have just moved into the oldest residence on campus. Willard Hall opened in 1911 but has been fully renovated – preserving the historic vibe while adding modern convenience: hardwood floors, open common areas, study nooks, a media room and community kitchen. Assistant Dean for Residence Life and Housing, Dave Fleming, says the project became a rush job four years ago.

“In 2016 we had a steam pipe rupture underneath the building, which buckled some of the flooring here. We were about a year out from renovating anyway, so we decided to close a year early and start that renovation.”

Opened in 1911, Willard Hall is the oldest residence hall on UMW's campus. It recently welcomed students back after a full renovation, which retained the building's historic charm while adding modern amenities. Photo Credit: Radio IQ.

Opened in 1911, Willard Hall is the oldest residence hall on UMW’s campus. It recently welcomed students back after a full renovation, which retained the building’s historic charm while adding modern amenities. Photo Credit: Radio IQ.

Planners were determined to retain the building’s historic charm while adding modern amenities.

“We had a historic preservationist on the construction team,” Fleming explains. “He’s actually a graduate from Mary Washington in historic preservation, and so he was able to really help us navigate some of those decisions.”

And he adds that students were consulted as plans evolved.

“A lot of the surveys that we’ve conducted indicated that the number one thing that students want is more study spaces so we were able to create some of those small study spaces for them.” Read more.

Ribbon-Cutting Marks New Chapter for Willard Hall

The ribbon is cut during the Willard Hall dedication. The group includes BOV members and student representatives, along with Assistant Dean of Residence Life and Housing Dave Fleming and BOV Rector Heather Mullins Crislip ’95 (far left), UMW President Troy Paino (front) and senior Maggie McCotter (with scissors). Photo by Matthew Brooks.

The ribbon is cut during the Willard Hall dedication. The group includes BOV members and student representatives, along with Assistant Dean of Residence Life and Housing Dave Fleming and BOV Rector Heather Mullins Crislip ’95 (far left), UMW President Troy Paino (front) and senior Maggie McCotter (with scissors). Photo by Matthew Brooks.

UMW senior Maggie McCotter loves the sunlight that streams into her third-floor Willard Hall room. She likes the rustic gleam of the refurbished hardwood floors under her feet, her view of the bubbling fountain, the building’s proximity to the post office and Vocelli Pizza.

“I take pride in being one of the first to live here” after an extensive renovation, she told students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends gathered in the structure’s main living area for a dedication on Friday.

A Willard Hall resident assistant, McCotter joined 156 first-year students who moved in at the start of the spring semester in January, but last week’s event, part of a daylong Board of Visitors meeting, makes it official. Generations have made their home at Mary Washington’s oldest residence hall, built in 1911. But McCotter and her charges are among the first to enjoy a new type of turn-of-the-century splendor, where modern touches – a media room, “teaching” kitchen and transformable spaces – mingle with prized pieces from the past.

Architects worked tirelessly to preserve the elegance of the building, which originally housed dining, offices and classrooms, plus a post office, infirmary and gift shop, according to History of Mary Washington College by Edward Alvey Jr. The $19.3 million renovation salvaged brick walls, maple hardwood floors, ornate iron banisters, molding and trim, and original skylight shafts, along with parts of the building’s open floorplan. Read more.