Editor’s Note: Two students who are in athletic programs at UR spoke with The Collegian on the condition of anonymity about their experiences regarding COVID-19 prevention.
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Students raised concerns about the University of Richmond’s COVID-19 testing and quarantine procedures in response to an increase in positive COVID-19 tests on athletic teams and across campus this past week.
As of noon on Nov. 11, UR’s COVID-19 Dashboard showed 13 active cases of COVID-19 at UR, 53 total cumulative cases and 6,738 total COVID-19 tests, according to the dashboard. As of noon on Nov. 13, the dashboard showed 21 current active cases, 64 total cumulative cases and 7,218 total tests, according to the dashboard.
Between Nov. 8 and Nov. 14, there were a total of 21 new cases at UR, compared with six new cases between Nov. 1 and Nov. 7, according to the dashboard.
This increase in positive COVID-19 cases had led UR to take precautions to prevent potential outbreaks.
Women’s lacrosse, men’s lacrosse, women’s soccer and men’s tennis have canceled practices for the rest of the semester, Matt McCollester, assistant athletic director for communications, wrote in an email to The Collegian on Nov. 13.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the athletics department concluded the offseason practice sessions for four programs a few days earlier than scheduled,” McCollester wrote. “The health and safety of our campus community is our first priority.”
Total COVID-19 tests on the UR Dashboard represents the total number of PCR, or antigen, tests conducted by UR or self-reported by students, faculty and staff, according to the dashboard. Students quarantining off-campus do not have to show a negative test result to return to their on-campus residence or in-person classes.
“When we place a student in quarantine we offer testing at 5-7 days, but it is optional,” wrote Lynne Deane, Student Health Center medical director, in an email to The Collegian on Oct. 29. “If the student declines testing by UR because they have decided to quarantine elsewhere, we request they provide (via their patient portal) the results of any testing they may choose to undergo.”
On Nov. 13, UR returned to the Red Stage of its COVID-19 distancing framework until at least Nov. 22, according to an email sent to faculty, staff, and students and their families by David Hale, executive vice president and chief operating officer, and Jeffrey Legro, executive vice president and provost.
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The Nov. 13 email came after a Nov. 11 email from Hale and Legro that wrote how COVID-19 cases were rising nationally, in Virginia and at UR among adults aged 20-30.
The positive cases among UR students “involve small gatherings without masks and physical distancing, and at least one larger gathering at a local bar,” Hale and Legro wrote in the Nov. 11 email.
“They involve predominantly off-campus events,” Hale and Legro wrote. “As we have said all along, these types of activities put our community at risk and undermine the health and safety of our web. Students are strongly encouraged to remain on campus, as we have urged all semester.”
Members of the women’s lacrosse team went to Sine Irish Pub, a bar and restaurant in downtown Richmond, on Nov. 7, said a student-athlete who spoke with The Collegian on the condition of anonymity. The fraternity formerly known as Sigma Alpha Epsilon also went to the pub on Nov. 5, the student said.
The Collegian could not independently confirm whether the fraternity formerly known as SAE held an event at the pub. The Collegian contacted Sine Irish Pub, but pub staff could not confirm whether UR students were present there from the weekend of Nov. 5 to Nov. 8.
Approximately half the women’s lacrosse team went into quarantine last week, the student said. There are 37 students on the women’s lacrosse team, according to the team roster. Those who chose to quarantine off-campus got tested for COVID-19 at home, the student said.
Another student-athlete who spoke with The Collegian on the condition of anonymity expressed her frustration with the Athletics Department this semester.
“There was one point I just didn't want to get out of bed because they're training us so hard for no reason,” the other student said. “It was really hard to keep motivation up for a season that we're not having and then a spring season that's not an 100% promise.
“Putting your body through really difficult things every single day and taking a toll on your mental health and your physical endurance — it was a lot each day.”
The student said her team took physical distancing requirements seriously because some teammates were immunocompromised. The student said she thought UR handled physical distancing requirements well overall, although the student was at times frustrated with the Athletics Department’s leadership.
“Specifically, my coaches I had frustrations with. Because we know of other teams where girls wouldn't be feeling good or guys wouldn’t be feeling good and they would shut down practice,” the student said. “But [my team] had, like a legitimate [COVID-19] scare and we still had practice the next day. And there were times where coaches wouldn't wear a mask and that was frustrating.”
UR is committed to being as transparent as possible with the COVID-19 Dashboard, Cynthia Price, associate vice president of media and public relations, wrote in a Nov. 13 email to The Collegian. Price emphasized the importance of disclosure and communication among community members.
“The expectation is for students to notify the university if they tested for COVID-19 off-campus and to promptly disclose the results of that test, whether positive or negative,” Price wrote. “If students don’t disclose to the university, we can’t use the information to inform our planning to protect our community.”
The Collegian cannot confirm what percentage of students chose to quarantine off campus last week and earlier in the fall semester. The Collegian cannot confirm what percentage of those who quarantine off campus are disclosing their test results to the UR community.
“We don’t have full data as to who quarantines on or off-campus because some information is not fully disclosed to us,” Price wrote. “We’re trying to be as forthcoming with the campus community as we can as we share updates to the [COVID-19 Dashboard], but we can only report what we know.”
Contact editor-in-chief Olivia Diaz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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