Update for Fall Term - Law Students

To: W&L Law Students
From: Sidney Evans, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
Date: Friday, September 18

Below is this week's update on the university's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please remember to check the COVID-19 Resources website for the latest campus messages, resources, and FAQs that are being updated regularly, and to submit your questions to covid19@wlu.edu

Rising COVID Cases and Conduct Sanctions

In the event some of our students might not check the COVID-19 Testing Dashboard daily, I wanted to make you all aware of the recent rise in cases among our student body. In the last nine days, 22 undergraduate students have tested positive for COVID-19, and 11 of those positive cases are from yesterday alone.

This sharp rise in cases is primarily a result of symptomatic individuals who were determined to be close contacts of previously identified cases, which shows how quickly and easily this virus can spread. It also 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 contain and manage cases on campus. You can use the Daily Attestation to keep a record of your close contacts.

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.

In addition to rising cases, we have also had a number of reports of both law and undergraduate students failing to comply with the community standards and COVID-19 restrictions. Eight undergraduate students were asked to leave campus today as a result of a single gathering on Wednesday night during which they violated community standards, including exceeding the size limit for an inside gathering, failing to wear face coverings, and failing to physically distance.

The current campus Environment Level as set by the COVID-19 Committee is just one level below red; a change to red would necessitate a move to all-virtual instruction. As we head into what looks to be a beautiful weekend in Lexington, I just want to reiterate how important it is that you continue to be vigilant in following all guidance around face coverings, physical distancing, hygiene, and limiting of close contacts. That means finding ways to spend time with your friends while continuing to comply with the current restrictions, including:

  • No indoor gatherings, on or off campus, of more than 6 people (including housemates)
  • No outdoor gatherings, on or off campus, of more than 10 people
  • Physical distancing of at least six feet is required at all times, in all locations, indoors and out
  • Face coverings required at all gatherings, at all times, unless you are outdoors and more than six feet apart

The health environment and our ability to remain on campus for the full term is tenuous and subject to change at a moment's notice. Your decisions and actions can and will make a difference.

Definition of a Close Contact

With a significant amount of contact tracing currently underway, it's important that everyone understands how a close contact is defined. According to the CDC, for COVID-19, a close contact is defined as any individual who was within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.

Clarification - Face Coverings Required in Private Common Rooms

We have received some questions about wearing face coverings in private common rooms, such as study carrels and bathrooms. Face coverings are required in these individual common spaces at all times.

Mental Health Support Resources

Even in the best of times, a new semester can bring new stress. In August, most W&L students returned to campus amid a pandemic that brings its own unique set of challenges. A variety of resources exist to help students with difficulties that might impact their well-being.

The Counseling Center web site is a good starting point for information about support for students, resources for concerned friends, and information about how to access direct clinical services at the university's 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.

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: Assistant Dean of Law Student Affairs, Public Safety (540-458-8999), and the Student Health Center (540-458-8401; open 24/7 when school is in session). The 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.

Reminder - Ongoing Testing

Testing for COVID-19 is continuing in a number of ways, on and off campus, to help maintain the safety of the W&L community and the surrounding Lexington/Rockbridge area. Ongoing testing includes:

  • Diagnostic/Symptomatic Testing: 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 on-site for the Coronavirus antigen with a rapid test that gives results in 15 minutes. This test is recommended for individuals with symptoms, within the first five days of illness.
  • Asymptomatic Contact Testing: Students who are identified as close contacts and who do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 may be tested on campus at weekly testing clinics, held each Monday, on referral from the Student Health Center. Testing of asymptomatic close contacts is intended to determine whether or not they are already infected with the virus, and should occur no sooner than five days after the last exposure/contact with the infected case. Students should call the Student Health Center at 540-458-8401 or e-mail studenthealth@wlu.edu to discuss authorization for testing.
  • Surveillance Testing: W&L will conduct ongoing, weekly surveillance testing using several strategies. If there are clusters of cases in particular areas of campus, we will ask people who have spent time in these areas to be tested. We will also select students and employees to participate in surveillance testing, such as testing individuals in a designated higher-risk group or facility, and/or testing a random population sample. This testing, which will include approximately 200 tests each week, will be conducted at W&L's on-campus clinics, or in partnership with the Virginia Department of Health if needed for outbreak investigation. If you are selected for surveillance testing, you will receive an email from covid19testing@wlu.edu with instructions for scheduling your test.

Testing data can be found on W&L's COVID-19 Testing Dashboard.

For Your Reference