The Collegian
Wednesday, September 28, 2022

UR settles into third year of pandemic with loose restrictions, little isolation space

<p>Isolation units on campus.</p>

Isolation units on campus.

As students arrive on campus, the University of Richmond will begin the semester under policies that recognize living with a COVID-19 normal among new variants.

The Green Stage of the Physical Distancing Framework, adopted on March 28, loosens most restrictions but maintains some of the “common sense” practices for the COVID-19 response that UR has implemented throughout the course of the pandemic, according to an email sent to the UR community from Steve Bisese, vice president for student development, and Latrina Lemon, medical director of the Student Health Center, on July 28.

Such practices include distributing tests and masks, increasing outside airflow and installing bipolar ionizers and ultraviolet filters, according to the email. 

“As much as we wish the pandemic were over, it is not,” Bisese and Lemon wrote in the email.

An average of 2,695 COVID-19 cases are reported every day in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Instead of the COVID-19 dashboard, which was paused over the summer and is no longer accessible on the webpage, UR will share a Spider Health Report with community members via SpiderBytes each Friday morning, according to an email sent to the UR community from Bisese and Carl Sorensen, senior associate vice president for human resources.

The report will include data on COVID-19 cases on campus and other health information, according to the email. 

Here’s a rundown of the continuing and updated COVID-19 policies for the upcoming semester.

Testing

UR will continue to provide self-test kits at no charge, according to the email. 

Members of the UR community can pick up self-test kits and masks any time at the URPD Communication Center in the Special Programs Building. And, beginning August 22, at the Center for Student Involvement from Monday to Friday between 10 a.m. and 12 a.m. and on weekends from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Although most of the protocols are similar to that of the spring semester, a new way of reporting test results aims to increase efficiency for students, according to the email.

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Starting this fall, students are required to report positive COVID-19 test results using a new online form. The form asks for contact information as well as the date the test was taken and when the onset of symptoms was. Students must indicate the type of test taken and upload a file of the result, and the form also asks if the student lives on campus. 

In addition, the new form asks students to list their on-campus close contacts, including their names, relationships — roommates, classmates or professors— and the date of the last contact.

UR defines a close contact as a person within six feet of someone with COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period and that exposure happened either two days before the person had symptoms or tested positive or after the person had symptoms or tested positive, according to the form. 

Once completed, the form will automatically route to the Office of Residence Life and Housing contact tracing and health center teams, which will follow up with students as needed, according to the email.

Isolation and Quarantine

Students must still isolate for five full days from the earlier onset of symptoms or a positive test regardless of vaccination status, according to the website.

UR is continuing the test-to-stay approach, which will not require asymptomatic close contacts to quarantine if they agree to test on days one through five of what would be their quarantine period, according to the guidelines.

There are 10 remaining trailers on campus, which provide 50 isolation or quarantine spaces, wrote Cynthia Price, associate vice president of media and public relations, in an email to The Collegian. The 10 trailers will be removed and donated at a later date, Price wrote.

Masks

Universal mask-wearing is not required. However, faculty and staff may require students to wear a mask in their classroom, lab or office, but must notify students of this requirement in advance. Students are required to comply, according to the email.

Vaccines

The vaccination requirement has not changed, and all students, faculty and staff are still required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless granted an exemption, according to the email. 

“If you are fully vaccinated, we strongly encourage you to consult with your health care provider to get a booster or second booster, as emerging data shows COVID-19 boosters protect against serious illness and hospitalization,” Bisese and Lemon wrote.

Students, faculty and staff must also report their vaccine status to UR, according to the policy. 

Undergraduates and law students can report their vaccine status through the immunization form in their health center portal, according to the email. Other graduate students should report their vaccine status by completing this form.

Contact news editor Natasha Sokoloff at natasha.sokoloff@richmond.edu.

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