Editor's Note: This is a developing story and will continue to be updated. Additional coverage of policy changes with community member input to come.
University of Richmond has 91 active COVID-19 cases as of Jan. 25, the start of the second week of classes for the spring semester, according to UR’s COVID-19 Dashboard. During the fall semester, UR reported 138 total cumulative cases, according to the dashboard.
This uptick comes after an email to the campus community yesterday reported 79 active cases among undergraduate students as of Sunday morning, and that many other students were in quarantine after being identified as close contacts.
Students living on campus have a lower positivity rate than those living off campus, 1.4% and 17% respectively, according to the email from Executive Vice President and Provost Jeffrey Legro, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer David Hale and Vice President for Student Development Steve Bisese.
Students moved onto campus and received entrance COVID-19 tests for the spring semester on a staggered schedule; the first students moved in on Jan. 8. Students residing off campus who will be attending classes in person were tested this past weekend, from Jan. 22 to 24.
The Sunday email stated that the cause for the discrepancy between on- and off-campus positivity rates cannot be certain but that the difference compelled the administration to adjust move-in protocols.
Undergraduate students living off campus are required to remain off campus and take classes remotely until Feb. 8, according to the email. Students living off campus will not have access to campus dining facilities or campus buildings during this time, according to the email.
In exception to this policy, student-athletes residing off campus are allowed to practice on campus with on-campus student-athletes but are not allowed to take classes in person, several student-athletes confirmed.
“We will revisit [the decision to keep off-campus students remote] as we get results from the prevalence testing for all undergraduate students that will take place over the next two weeks,” Legro, Hale and Bisese wrote in the email.
Prevalence testing began Monday. Undergraduate students will be tested for COVID-19 every two weeks this semester, with the exception of student-athletes who are tested in accordance with NCAA guidelines three times per week on non-consecutive days.
Last semester, students were selected for prevalence testing through random selection. Initially, 10% of the undergraduate student body was tested biweekly, and when UR transitioned to the Orange Stage of the Physical Distancing Framework in October, testing increased to 15% of undergraduate students biweekly.
Upon students’ return to campus, UR also implemented Enhanced Red Stage policies, which have now been extended through Feb. 7, according to UR’s website. During the enhanced red stage, residential students are required to remain on campus unless granted an exception from their dean for essential trips, such as a doctor's appointment or work.
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In an email sent last Friday, Bisese wrote to inform the community of what he called a disturbing uptick in COVID-19 cases among students. Bisese notified the UR community of two known parties — one on campus and one off campus — that occurred during the first week of classes.
“The irresponsible and selfish decisions of a few individuals put us all at risk,” Bisese wrote.
The Friday email emphasized the repercussions for violating UR’s health and safety protocols — including probationary status, removal from campus housing and suspension — as well as the threat to community members’ health.
“I’m imploring you to reach into the depths of your selflessness to demonstrate care for one another and the entire Spider family,” Bisese wrote. “Your actions and your examples matter.”
Bisese also mentioned the possibility of moving to remote learning.
“If this behavior does not cease, we will face the prospect of going remote like we did last spring,” Bisese wrote.
Contact managing editor Emma Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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