Update on COVID-19 Cases and Variant Sequencing

To: W&L Students, Faculty and Staff
From: The COVID-19 Committee
Date: Monday, March 8

We hope this message finds you all well and that you've been able to get out and enjoy the nicer weather. We're writing to provide an update on current COVID-19 cases on our campus, and to share results of the university's recent investigation into possible variants among our positive COVID-19 cases.

There are currently 37 active cases among our campus community, 17 of which have been identified in the past two days. On Saturday, the number of COVID-19 cases identified this term surpassed the total number of cases for all of the fall semester. While not a milestone to be celebrated, we do believe our increased testing, new isolation and quarantine (I/Q) tracking system, and additional resources on the COVID Care Team have helped us to manage the I/Q process in a way that has allowed us to remain on campus.

Concern over the faster viral spread this term prompted us to work with both the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and Zymo Research Lab to have a number of positive samples from our student testing sequenced for variants of the COVID-19 virus. This sequencing confirmed the presence of two common variants - B.1.2 Clade 20G and CAL.20C - the latter of which is a more transmissible California variant, as well as two confirmed recent reinfections of individuals who had the virus last fall. The sequencing did not find evidence of other variants, such as those originating from the United Kingdom, South Africa or Brazil. In addition to the links above, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Journal of the American Medical Association provide general information about variants.

With the presence of a more transmissible virus on our campus, we cannot reiterate enough the importance of following all current guidelines and safety measures, especially those around the use of face coverings, physical distancing and proper hygiene to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

We will continue to review the operational indicators several times per week and adjust the Environment Level and/or guidance around safety measures as necessary. We are hopeful the warmer weather in the coming weeks will allow for more opportunities to spend time together outdoors, while continuing to follow guidance around gathering sizes, distancing and face coverings. We appreciate your continued collective efforts to help stem the spread of COVID-19 on our campus.