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Spring semester rolls on

Masked, distanced students attend a lecture class
Sanjay Suchak

The University of Virginia resumed in-person instruction for the spring semester on Feb. 1, even as rising coronavirus case numbers narrowed the margin for error compared to the fall.

“A successful spring semester will require even greater adherence to UVA policies around testing, masks, physical distancing and gatherings,” President James E. Ryan (Law ’92), Provost M. Elizabeth “Liz” Magill (Law ’95), Chief Operator Officer J.J. Davis and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Dr. K. Craig Kent said in mid-January.

As part of a more aggressive approach to limiting the spread of the virus, the size of gatherings was limited to six people from Jan. 19 through the first two weeks of the semester. The previous limit was 10.

Residence Hall move-in was set to proceed as planned. UVA also strongly encouraged students to take extra precautions for at least 14 days before returning to school. As in the fall, students will be required to submit a negative C0VID-19 test before coming back to Grounds. After returning, students will be tested weekly.

Knowledge gained during the fall semester informed the decision. UVA saw no evidence of transmission of the virus within classrooms, between students and faculty and staff, or from students into the community, the leaders said. The UVA community also showed that it could comply with measures to slow the virus, they said.

As the fall semester progressed, UVA expanded prevalence testing and implemented wastewater testing to detect and prevent the spread and prevalence of the virus. As of Jan. 19, Virginia had reported 1,799 total cases and 1,324 student cases since the fall semester began in August. Leaders said that, as in the fall, when some 30 percent of classes had an in-person component, offering in-person instruction will better enable the University to monitor compliance with health measures for students who live off-Grounds.

All members of the UVA community will be required to comply with public health measures, even those who have had COVID-19 or been vaccinated.

“As we have said before, we continue to monitor the progression of the virus and will make changes to our approach if they are necessary to keep this community safe,” the leaders said.