Update on COVID-19 Cases and Mitigation Measures – Faculty, Staff and Students

To: W&L Faculty, Staff and Students
From: COVID-19 Committee
Date: Thursday, September 9

We've been excited to welcome our students back and to see all of you on campus these past few weeks. We write today to provide an update on the current COVID-19 landscape on our campus.

The university began conducting arrival testing of all our returning students on Aug. 11. That process is nearly complete and of the 2427 tests administered since Aug. 11, including students experiencing symptoms and those identified as close contacts who have been tested at the Student Health Center, we have 12 students who have tested positive for COVID, giving us a test positivity rate of 0.5%.

We currently have seven active undergraduate student cases, three active employee cases, and no active cases among law students. While the number of active cases in our campus community remains relatively low, it is worth noting that most of the infected individuals are fully vaccinated and/or have been previously infected with COVID. Several of these cases are related, with transmission occurring in both indoor and outdoor social and residential settings. Most cases have been very mild, but some are experiencing serious symptoms.

As we learned last year, it only takes a few days for COVID cases on our campus to rise substantially. To slow the spread and prevent a larger outbreak, we are asking everyone to continue to employ the basic public health measures recommended to slow the spread of the virus: mask, distance where possible, and limit close contacts.

Masking

As we have previously communicated, all individuals, including those who are fully vaccinated, are expected to wear masks in public indoor spaces on campus, and in university-sponsored meetings and retreats that are held indoors off-campus. Per CDC guidance, individuals may also want to consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.

In addition to always having a mask with you, please be sure to wear your mask correctly so that it will be effective. As a reminder:

  • Masks should be at least two layers and in good condition
  • Masks should securely cover both nose and mouth at all times
  • Don't touch the outside of the mask when putting it on/taking it off
  • Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, mouth when removing mask
  • Wash hands immediately after removing mask

Distancing and Being Outdoors

Spreading out - staying at least six feet from others - helps prevent the spread of the virus. We encourage you to spread out to the extent possible, particularly when unmasked, at social events, and in other crowded venues, even when they take place outdoors. And we encourage socializing and hosting events outdoors as much as possible.

Limiting Close Contacts

Limiting close contacts helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 among our community and helps make contact tracing manageable for our COVID Care staff. A close contact is defined as someone who has been within six feet of an infected individual for 15 minutes or more cumulatively in a 24-hour period, regardless of whether masks were worn.

It remains critical that those who test positive for COVID-19 cooperate fully with our COVID Care team in sharing potential close contacts. As always, information shared with the COVID Care team is confidential and will not be used in any way other than to identify close contacts. Vaccinated close contacts must self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days and wear a mask at all times around others until they have had negative viral testing at least three to five days after last exposure. Unvaccinated close contacts must quarantine after exposure.

We continue to encourage all members of our community who wish to further protect themselves and their family members to wear masks and maintain a safe distance from others whenever and wherever they choose to do so.

The university is committed to in-person instruction this year. We have no plans to move to remote or hybrid learning and will need to be flexible with students and employees who may need to isolate in the coming weeks. Our campus experienced rising cases several times last year and acting quickly allowed us to continue to operate in-person. We believe taking the measures outlined above, combined with our high vaccination rate, will help us manage the spread and keep us on track for a successful year. Again, welcome back to campus and thank you for your collective efforts to keep our community safe.