Autumn leaves on the Lawn Sanjay Suchak

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, the University of Virginia has pushed back by at least two weeks dormitory move-in and the return to in-person classes for undergraduates. Classes will still begin remotely on Aug. 25, with a scheduled in-person start of Sept. 8.

The graduate and professional schools already have in place a separate set of startup dates.

Over the signatures of UVA President James E. Ryan (Law ’92) and his three executive vice presidents—Provost M. Elizabeth “Liz” Magill (Law ’95), health system head K. Craig Kent and COO Jennifer “J.J.” Wagner Davis—the announcement comes just two weeks before the scheduled move-in days for University housing and three weeks before the start of the semester. It cites in particular the adverse Charlottesville and Albemarle County infection trendlines, as well as supply chain disruptions for testing materials—universal testing being a cornerstone of UVA’s back-to-school safeguards.

In the message, the senior leaders “strongly urge” undergraduates with off-Grounds living arrangements to delay their return to Charlottesville.  Student social activities have been a growing community concern. Large crowds of students gathered for Midsummers without masks and social distancing in July, which prompted Dean of Students Allen W. Groves (Law ’90) to post a public letter warning students their reckless behavior put the entire community at risk and threatened to derail the return to school.

As part of the fall preparations, students will be asked to sign a coronavirus “student behavioral contract.” Its contents are among the details to come over the next several weeks, as are the particulars of how dormitory move-in will work.

The announcement leaves open the possibility for further delays and changes, promising another update by Aug. 28. It concludes by noting the unpredictability of events, saying: “Rather than promise complete confidence about the future, the best we can do is create the conditions to succeed and pledge to adapt as necessary.”

Through measures already announced, here are the outlines of life on Grounds this fall amid the pandemic.

Public health

  • Students will require a negative COVID-19 test before returning to Grounds. Tests will be provided free to students at their homes. Fourteen days before returning to Grounds, students are highly encouraged to self-quarantine. Students who test positive will be able to return to Grounds after mandatory self-isolation.
  • All students, faculty and staff will be provided with two cloth masks and required to wear a mask in common spaces.
  • All students will be provided with two small containers of hand sanitizer, as well as a touch tool to open doors and push keypads.
  • The University will place 3,600 hand-sanitizer stands and containers in high-traffic spots. Sanitizing wipes will also be available.
  • Students, faculty and staff will be required to track virus symptoms daily using an app.
  • The University will enhance its cleaning of classrooms, labs, dining halls, lounges and other common spaces, and will provide hand-sanitizing stations around Grounds.
  • Testing will be available to anyone who wants it. Students who test positive will be isolated, and those who have been exposed will be quarantined. The University will be working with the Virginia Department of Health to trace the contacts of anyone who contracts the virus.


  • The semester, beginning virtually on Aug. 25 for undergraduates, will end by Thanksgiving.
  • Undergraduate students can spread out their course load by taking classes in the January and summer terms, with no increase in tuition.


  • Competition was scheduled to begin the week of Sept. 6 in football, soccer, field hockey, volleyball and cross country. Schedules and guidelines for fan attendance were not available at press time.
  • The football schedule has 10 conference games and one versus Virginia Military Institute.
  • Swimming and diving, indoor track and field, and fencing were delayed until at least Sept. 10.
  • The NCAA is set to decide by Aug. 21 whether to play at all.

Student life

  • Students are being allowed to choose their roommates and are being assigned specific sinks, stalls and showers in residence halls, with limits on the number of students allowed in communal bathrooms at once.
  • Dining facilities will operate at 50 percent seating capacity and will provide more takeout options.
  • Sporting events will be held on Grounds, although no decision has been made on fan attendance.

Also this summer, Ryan announced that final exercises for the Class of 2020 will be held May 28–30, 2021, the week after those planned for the Class of 2021.