Editor's note: a previous version of this story referred to Eli Kimbell as a sophomore instead of a second-year graduate student.
The University of Richmond will be moving to the Green Stage of its Physical Distancing Framework on March 28.
The announcement sent to UR community members detailing the removal of attendee size restrictions, COVID-19 visitor policies and third-party events marks the first time in more than two years since UR has moved to operate with minimal restrictions. COVID-19 cases on campus have declined since the spike in January. Currently, there are two active cases, according to the COVID-19 dashboard.
“The Green Stage of our framework relaxes many of the restrictions of the prior stages, but recognizes a new living-with-COVID-19 normal,” wrote David Hale, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Jeffrey Legro, executive vice president and provost and Shannon Sinclair, vice president and general counsel, in the email.
Key changes to campus protocols in the Green Stage include that gatherings may be held with no COVID-19 related attendee size restrictions; UR’s pre-COVID-19 visitor policies for on-campus housing are reinstated; third-party events may be held on campus; and visitors will be welcome back to all dining locations, libraries and UR museums, according to the email.
Some students, such as first-year Ryan Doherty, expressed concern about the decision.
“Coming from the perspective of someone who had to spend 10 days in COVID isolation, this is a dangerous decision on UR’s behalf,” Doherty said.
As the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Virginia continues to decrease, UR will join other Virginia institutions such as the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University in lifting restrictions.
“I’m excited about the visitor rules changing because now my home friends can come down and visit,” junior William Stackler said. “In high school, we always talked about visiting each other and then COVID messed that all up.”
Some COVID-19 policies, however, will stay in place. The current mask policy that allows instructors to require students to wear masks in classes will remain in effect. Additionally, off-campus community members will not be granted access to the Weinstein Center for Recreation or the Well-Being Center until May 2, according to the email.
Transitioning to Green Stage seemed insignificant compared to the lifting of the universal indoor mask mandate on Feb. 21, sophomore Emma Miller said.
“I feel like [with the Green Stage] nothing has really changed cause we’ve had our masks off,” Miller said.
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UR will also maintain its current isolation and contact-tracing protocols and will continue to provide self-test kits at no charge to students, faculty and staff, according to the email
“I’m glad the dining hall is open to visitors again because now when my girlfriend visits she can eat there with me,” second-year graduate student Eli Kimbell said.
Hale, Legro and Sinclair attributed the possibility of reversing COVID-19 restrictions to the high vaccination rates within the UR community, which currently stand at 97.9% for students and 94.3% for faculty and staff, according to UR’s COVID-19 dashboard. There have been 499 cumulative reported cases this term, according to the dashboard.
“This change is possible because of our community’s rigorous commitment and active participation in adhering to our campus health protocols and high vaccination rates in our campus population,” the email reads.
News writer Ananya Chetia contributed to reporting.
Contact features editor Kathryn Kimmel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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