COVID-19 Spread and Campus Environment Level

To: W&L Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents
From: President Will Dudley
Date: March 10, 2021

This morning I received the latest COVID-19 case counts, which have sharply increased in the undergraduate student body since their recent two-day break. We currently have 75 active student cases, 73 of which were identified in the last week, and 35 in the last 24 hours alone. This spread appears to be largely related to social gatherings and parties.

Our on-campus isolation and quarantine capacity is approaching 100%, and we are moving to our surge capacity hotel options. Contact tracing has become strained despite the recent addition of resources on the COVID Care team.

More troubling is the deliberate and flagrant lack of compliance with contact tracing and I/Q protocols demonstrated by some students. Without effective isolation and quarantine, no amount of testing and early detection can slow the spread of the virus on our campus. Continued spread at the current level jeopardizes the remainder of this term on campus, an in-person Spring Term, and the possibility of in-person commencement activities.

The Environment Level is now Red, with the following restrictions in place until further notice:

  • Gatherings are limited to 6 people, indoors and out.
  • No visitors are allowed in undergraduate residences, on or off-campus, including Greek and theme housing.

There continues to be no evidence of the virus spreading in our classrooms, and faculty may continue to teach in person.

While I understand these restrictions are difficult, they are necessary to slow the virus and preserve the possibility of remaining on campus. The coming weeks will be critical in reducing the number of active cases. The steps we must take are simple: Wear a mask. Keep your distance. Limit your contacts. Cooperate with contact tracing. Comply with I/Q protocols. Report even mild symptoms quickly. Social gatherings above the current limits and without masking and distancing simply cannot continue to take place if we are to reverse the current spread.

As the weather improves, the days get longer, and the end of the term approaches, it may be tempting to let your guard down. Now is not the time to do so. If we can be vigilant about these simple steps for the next 10-14 days, we will be able to relax these restrictions and look forward to an active Spring Term and in-person commencement for our seniors. We are all in this together, and we cannot achieve these goals without your cooperation.