Update for Fall Term - Law Students

To: W&L Law Students
From: Trenya Mason, Assistant Dean of Law Student Affairs
Date: Friday, October 2

I want to open this week's update by acknowledging the frustration and anxiety being felt by many of you. As Dean Hellwig remarked in his Midterm Update yesterday, the pandemic has created substantial challenges to life at the law school, from our academic settings to our social interactions. I applaud your flexibility and grit as the university continues to adapt to the evolving circumstances. I also want to thank those who have shared their comments and constructive feedback, which helps us shape these information-driven updates each week. Please continue to send me your thoughts.

First Known COVID-19 Case at Law School

As communicated yesterday, several new COVID-19 cases have been identified among W&L's campus community this week, including the first known case among law students and the first asymptomatic employee to test positive through the university's surveillance testing. You can access current testing data on W&L's COVID-19 Testing Dashboard.

The rise in cases across campus underscores the importance of keeping track of close contacts, and being forthcoming and honest during the contact tracing process. Contact tracing is one of the primary ways in which the university is working to effectively contain and manage cases on campus. You can use the Daily Attestation to keep a record of your close contacts. If you are not identified as a close contact, you should simply keep following the recommended safety protocols and going about your daily activities.

On that point, I want to reiterate how critical it is to follow the well-documented guidance around face coverings, physical distancing, hygiene, and limiting of close contacts, as this continues to be the best approach to minimizing the potential spread of the virus. Simply put, treat those around you as if they have COVID-19 - whether or not they have symptoms - and act accordingly.

The Law School administration is grateful to all of you who have been working hard to comply with the COVID-19 restrictions. We appreciate the sacrifices that students, faculty and staff have made and continue to make during this challenging time. Your efforts do make a difference and they significantly improve our chances of completing the Fall Term on campus.

Reminder - Testing Options

Students with possible symptoms of COVID-19 are advised to stay home, contact Student Health at 540-458-8401 for assessment/indicated testing, and to self-isolate while the test result is pending. The Student Health Center can test students with symptoms on-site for the Coronavirus antigen with a rapid test that gives results in 15 minutes.

Students who are not exhibiting symptoms but would like a COVID-19 test have a new local option. The Rockbridge Area Health Center (RAHC) is now offering COVID-19 testing. If you are not experiencing symptoms, you do not have to be an established patient of the RAHC to be tested. Call 540-464-8700 to speak with RAHC's COVID Testing Coordinator to schedule testing.

Reminder - Mental Health Support Resources

Even in the best of times, law school life produces plenty of stress, but being on campus during a pandemic brings its own unique set of challenges. A variety of resources exist to help students with difficulties that might impact their well-being.

W&L's University Counseling website is a primary source for information about support for students, resources for concerned friends, and information about how to access direct clinical services at the University Counseling Center. This web page includes information about access to care in situations where students may have urgent needs or mental health emergencies. That information is also available on the "Get Help Now" banner from the W&L Student Life homepage.

The Virginia Judges & Lawyers Assistance Program offers tailored counseling services and support groups to law students who are suffering from mental health disorders and addiction. Their services are 100% free, confidential and non-disciplinary. Feel free to call 804-644-3212 to speak to someone.

In addition to reaching out to me as the Assistant Dean of Law Student Affairs, there are a number of other resources available on campus you can turn to if you need help or are concerned about a friend needing help, including: the University Counseling Center (540-458-8590; call during business hours and leave a message), Public Safety (540-458-8999), and the Student Health Center (540-458-8401; open 24/7 when school is in session). Student Health Center nurses are the point of contact after regular business hours for consultation with the medical and/or counseling providers on call.

Off campus options for assessing mental health emergencies include

  • Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital emergency department: Dial 9-1-1
  • Crisis Text Line: Text "GO" to 741-741 (free, 24/7, confidential)
  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Rockbridge Area Community Services Behavioral Health Crisis Hotline: 1-855-222-2046

All of these resources listed have had training and experience in helping students who are in distress. Each situation is unique, and each student in distress has their own level of comfort in who and how to ask for help. Please connect with one of these support resources if you or a friend need help.