Update on COVID-19 Cases and Environment Level – Faculty, Staff and Students

To: W&L Faculty, Staff and Students
From: COVID-19 Committee
Date: Thursday, September 16

We have seen a sharp increase in positive COVID-19 cases among our undergraduate students over the past week, each with a substantial number of close contacts. This has resulted in significant pressure on the university's Isolation/Quarantine (I/Q), Student Health, Facilities, and COVID Care capacities. In addition, transmission rates in the surrounding area continue to be high and our local and regional hospitals are at or above capacity. For those reasons, the COVID-19 Committee has recommended to President Dudley, who in turn approved, a move of W&L's COVID-19 Environment Level from yellow-low to yellow-middle.

The university is responding to these increased pressures in several ways. We are increasing I/Q capacity and working to expand both our COVID Care and Student Health staffing to meet the additional demand.

In addition, we are expanding our screening testing program to offer optional PCR testing up to once per week for students, faculty, and staff who wish to be tested. Testing will be available in Evans Hall on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday of each week, beginning Sept. 21. Tests should be self-scheduled through the Aura application, which is available now. Instructions for self-scheduling through Aura can be found on the ITS website.

This testing is only for individuals who are not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Students experiencing symptoms should stay home and call the Student Health Center (540-458-8401) to schedule a test. Employees experiencing symptoms should stay home, report their symptoms through the Attestation website, and seek a COVID test from a local health care provider.

We also need your help to slow the spread of the virus on our campus. We continue to expect all individuals, including those who are fully vaccinated, to wear masks in public indoor spaces. We are now asking students to also wear masks in common areas in on-campus residences.

In addition, we encourage members of our campus community to:

  • Wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact.
  • Wear a mask while dining with others, except when actively eating or drinking.
  • Make use of dining facilities' takeout option and eat outdoors when weather permits.
  • Spread out - at least six feet from others - when possible, particularly when unmasked, at social events, and in other crowded venues, even when they take place outdoors.
  • Limit close contacts and much as possible and cooperate fully with our COVID Care team in sharing potential close contacts.
  • Socialize and host events outdoors as much as possible.

As we have stated before, the university is committed to in-person instruction this year. We're hopeful that if we work together and take the necessary precautions, we can reverse the course of the current rise in cases. Please continue to be vigilant about masking, limiting close contacts, paying attention to and reporting any symptoms, and following the guidelines and safety measures outlined on the COVID-19 Resources website. We appreciate your continued collective efforts to help stem the spread of COVID-19 on our campus.