The University of Richmond returned to the Red Stage of its COVID-19 distancing framework on Nov. 13 until at least Nov. 22, according to an email sent to faculty, staff, students and families by David Hale, executive vice president and chief operating officer, and Jeffrey Legro, executive vice president and provost.
"We write regarding the unfortunate uptick in positive COVID-19 cases and the number of students in quarantine, which we have continued to witness in recent days," Hale and Legro wrote. "These developments, coupled with the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the greater Richmond community, compel us to return to the Red Stage of the Physical Distancing Framework effective today."
There are 21 current active cases of COVID-19 and 64 total cumulative cases as of 7 p.m. Friday, according to UR's COVID-19 dashboard. Additionally, 13.2% of UR's isolation space and 6.9% of quarantine space is currently occupied, according to the dashboard.
Hale and Legro wrote in the email they had reason to believe that most of the increase in cases of COVID-19 were associated with social gatherings held off campus. Red Stage protocols limit off-campus outings to essential activities, such as medical appointments or employment, with the provision of mask-wearing and physical distancing when appropriate, according to the email.
Contact tracing suggests that the increase in quarantine rates was because two positive cases had a higher number of close contacts than normal, according to the email.
UR's most recent prevalence testing results yielded one positive case among 368 students tested, and no positive cases among 96 faculty and staff members tested, according to the email.
Biology professor Kathy Zoghby said UR's return to the Red Stage might allow students who had not been exposed to COVID-19 to remain healthy for the semester's last week of in-person classes.
"I thought the guidelines that were in place were truly keeping both faculty and students and everybody safe," she said. "The whole glitch in the system, obviously, was not being able to control what was going on off-campus."
Zoghby's students expressed concern that attending classes in person next week would be dangerous before returning home, she said. Zoghby made the decision to hold her classes and labs remotely next week because of her personal concern and her students' worries about the 21 active cases on campus, she said.
Ben Lukas, a senior who lives off campus, said the return to the Red Stage made him feel safer as students prepared to go home at the end of the semester. Lukas chose to live off campus this semester to distance himself from UR but takes some classes in person, he said.
"As people are getting ready to get sent back home across the country, you really don't want people spreading the virus," he said. "It's one thing from a liability standpoint of the university to just try to protect themselves and make it the last week.
"But also you have to recognize that people are going all across the country — and I don't know if anyone is going international — but it would be reckless to take the chance of letting [COVID-19] get out before sending everyone home."
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The department of theater and dance’s performance of Richard III will continue as scheduled this weekend, according to Hale and Legro's email. The play is scheduled to be performed outdoors at the Jenkins Greek Theater on Friday and Saturday, with masks and physical distancing required of viewers, according to the email.
"We regret that the shift to Red Stage is necessary at this time but we must proceed cautiously to protect the health of our campus community through the end of the residential portion of our semester and beyond," Hale and Legro wrote.
Contact investigative editor Morgan Howland at email@example.com.
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