Update for Fall Term - Undergraduate Students

To: W&L Undergraduate Students
From: Sidney Evans, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
Date: Wednesday, September 16

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 Restrictions

As a reminder, the COVID-19 Committee changed the COVID environment level to yellow-high (one step away from red) this week. At the time of this communication, nine students have tested positive in the last seven days.

We'd like to remind you all on this Wednesday afternoon, when positive student case numbers are rising, that the current restrictions continue to be in place and will be enforced:

  • 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
  • No visitors other than current W&L students in residences, including residential halls, townhouses, apartments, Greek houses, and off-campus housing

If you choose not to comply, sanctions include fines, conduct probation, and removal from on-campus classes and on-campus housing. Failure to be respectful of Residential Life staff will result in an additional conduct charge. It bears repeating - 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 one way or the other.

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 individual common rooms in first-year residence halls, study carrels at the library, and bathrooms. Face coverings are required in these individual common spaces at all times. As previously communicated, you can unmask in your individual bedroom.

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: Res Life staff, Peer Counselors, Class Deans, 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