Approximately one month after the University of Richmond announced that it would implement Enhanced Red Stage guidelines for the spring semester, administrators shared that the UR community will remain in Enhanced Red Stage until Feb. 28.
UR extended the Enhanced Red Stage from was extended until Feb. 28 following a rise in COVID-19 cases on campus, according to a Feb. 4 email from Bisese; Jeffrey Legro, executive vice president and provost; and David Hale, executive vice president and chief operating officer.
The original announcement regarding Enhanced Red Stage in a Jan. 8 email from vice president of student development Steve Bisese to the campus community laid out the new policies, including more limitations on student travel off campus, and UR’s expectations going into the spring semester.
“We are looking at [the] data and what’s going on on-campus every single day,” Hale said in an interview with The Collegian on Feb. 5. “If we saw marketed improvement it would be great to roll it back sooner than the end of February… We try as hard as we possibly can to be nimble and react and be prepared for different situations or different inputs that we’re getting from the data.”
Students spent most of last semester with Red Stage COVID-19 restrictions. A main change in the move to the Enhanced Red Stage is that on-campus students generally cannot leave campus. Unlike Red Stage guidelines, under which students are allowed but advised against going off-campus, the Enhanced Red Stage does not allow students to leave unless they obtain permission from their residential dean for essential trips.
“It has always been our number one motivation to strike a balance between education and enforcement sanctions,” Bisese said in a Feb. 5 interview with The Collegian. “We concentrated the most serious penalties, or sanctions, for noncompliance and for hosting large gatherings or violating isolation guidelines. We were most clear about those in the fall and remain that way in the spring.”
Under Red Stage guidelines, students could, but were advised against, going off campus. If they did, students were asked to follow health guidelines, such as wearing face masks and social distancing, to prevent possible exposure. Red Stage has no explicit restrictions from going off campus for necessary errands, such as buying groceries or picking up medication.
In a Jan. 9 email, Bisese clarified grocery restrictions for students living in UFA or Gateway apartments. During the Enhanced Red Stage, students who are awaiting their COVID-19 test results may only get groceries through contactless delivery.
After receiving a negative test result, students are urged to continue using contactless delivery but may also use curbside pickup options. If neither option is available to students may make limited trips to get groceries while continuing to follow public health measures, according to the email.
Bisese included links to food and grocery delivery services, such as Instacart, to assist students in finding delivery options.
“The way I save so much money is by cooking my own meals,” Senior Jack Boo said. “Every time I want to get it [food] delivered, as a percentage, it adds up it’s a lot of extra money.
“It’s just frustrating that the rules are being constantly changed and their enforcement is different from the published set of circumstances.”
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UR has also implemented more rigorous COVID-19 testing protocols compared to the fall semester. All non-remote undergraduate students are required to undergo biweekly prevalence testing, as reported by The Collegian.
“We significantly increased the prevalence testing this semester because of the high cases we were seeing nationally and in Virginia,” Shannon Sinclair, vice president and general counsel, said in an interview with The Collegian. “For planning purposes, in terms of our prevalence testing approach, we just assumed that there would be higher number of cases when students returned to campus.
“We thought it made sense, given that assumption and what we were seeing nationally and locally, to significantly ramp up testing at the beginning of the semester and hopefully things will get better.”
In the fall, during the Red Stage, 10% of undergraduate students were prevalence tested biweekly via random selection. When UR transitioned to Orange Stage, prevalence testing was increased to 15% of undergraduate students biweekly.
Junior Alex Smith thinks mandatory biweekly testing for all students should have been implemented in the fall, she said.
“I wish there had been regular testing last semester,” Smith said. “I think that’s just good for the community as a whole and even for this semester. Part of me wonders whether every other week is enough considering the rise of cases on campus. I think it’ll be interesting to see if they consider amping it up for everyone.”
During initial move-in testing, off-campus students had a 17% COVID-19 test positivity rate, compared to 1.4% for on-campus students, which prompted UR to generally bar off-campus students from campus until Feb. 8.
Smith feels that the policy that barred off-campus students from campus and the consequences for violating the COVID-19 policies are understandable given the current circumstances, she said.
“I’m really apprehensive,” Smith said. “The COVID[-19] case numbers are way worse than when we came in August. There’s definitely just a heightened sense of anxiety for me surrounding COVID[-19].”
Sophomore Sam Gilmore feels the Enhanced Red Stage policies, such as suspension, eviction from on campus housing, disciplinary action and conduct probationary status, take focus away from the main objective of this semester: keeping everyone safe, he said.
“I can definitely understand that there needs to be a disincentive to skipping the testing,” Gilmore said. “But something that seems constructive to me would be if you miss your test for some reason, even if it’s not on purpose, you shouldn’t be allowed to take in-person classes — considering that [that] is a huge focal point of what they’re trying to continue this semester.”
Gilmore thinks students who openly disregard the new policies and continue to put others at risk should face harsher penalties from UR, he said.
“If there are people who are less willing to follow COVID[-19] protocols and obviously get caught and suspended or any other probationary matters — I think those are the people that the school really has to crack down on,” Gilmore said.
Contact features writer Quinn Humphrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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