Fall 2021 COVID Operating Plan
This campus plan for fall of 2021 document should be read in conjunction with other relevant communications from the University that are included on the COVID-19 Resources page on the University website. The COVID-19 Resources website is the primary source for up-to-date information. The university reserves the right to update the operating plan as needed.
COVID-19 Coordinators and Committee
Jane Horton, University Physician and Director of Student Health serves as the COVID-19 coordinator relative to student matters, issues, and questions. Mary Main, Executive Director of Human Resources, serves as the COVID-19 coordinator relative to employee matters.
These designated contacts provide the community with the ability to go to a single source with questions or issues that emerge. These individuals will be familiar with policies, guidelines and approaches to a variety of COVID-19 matters but will also reach out to others in the community to assist when they do not have an answer or are not familiar with the specific subject matter.
The COVID-19 Committee remains in place and includes the following individuals:
- Paul Youngman, Associate Provost (chair of the committee)
- Scott Eversole, IT Project Management and Communications Specialist
- Elisabeth Gilbert, Assistant Professor of Business Administration
- Bill Hamilton, Professor of Biology
- Jan Hathorn, Director of Athletics
- Jane Horton, University Physician and Director of Student Health
- John Jensen, Dean of Career and Professional Development
- Tom Kalasky, Executive Director of University Facilities
- Ethan Kipnes, Director of Public Safety
- Dave Leonard, Dean of Student Life
- Mary Main, Executive Director of Human Resources
- Trenya Mason, Assistant Dean, Law Student Affairs
- Sally Richmond, Vice President for Admissions and Financial Aid
- Kim Robinson, University Registrar
- Drewry Sackett, Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs
- K.C. Schaefer, Executive Director of Auxiliary Services
- Elizabeth Teaff, Associate Professor and Head of Access Services, University Library
- Nyla Gavia ‘22, Head RA
- Brian Wickman ‘22, Head CA
This committee is tasked with continuing to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and its variants as well as CDC and VDH guidance, identifying and managing issues that emerge, advising and providing guidance and recommendations to university leadership on environment level, safety measures and restrictions, and response to active cases on campus.
Contact Information and Procedures for Reaching the Local Health Department
Jane Horton, University Physician, will act as the liaison with the Central Shenandoah Health District and the Virginia Department of Health throughout this pandemic. Our primary point of contact is:
Dr. Laura Kornegay, District Director, Central Shenandoah Health District
540-332-7830 Ext. 341
In addition, the University has long maintained a working relationship with Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital in Lexington. Our contact with the local hospital and other regional Carilion Clinic physician practices and urgent care centers is:
Greg Madsen, Vice President, Carilion - Rockbridge Community Hospital
Executive Orders and Public Health Guidance
The University will comply with all active Executive Orders. In the absence of active Executive Orders, the University will monitor and follow current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement
All students and employees are required to be fully vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by the FDA or WHO, unless they have been approved for a medical or religious exemption. At the end of August, 2021, the University community reached a vaccination rate of more than 95%, allowing the University to follow public health guidance for highly vaccinated populations.
Requirements for Unvaccinated Individuals
All unvaccinated individuals, including visitors and those with medical or religious exemptions to the vaccine requirement, are required to wear a mask at all times when indoors on campus except in their private office, stay six feet away from others they don't live with while inside campus buildings, comply with weekly screening testing, and avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
Masking/Use of Face Coverings
The University has established guidelines for the need to wear face coverings for employees and students. Decisions regarding masking are based on the CDC's Interim Public Health Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Individuals, which states the following:
- Fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.
- Fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease or not fully vaccinated.
- Fully vaccinated people who have come into close contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.
When transmission levels in the surrounding area are at substantial or high on the CDC's Data Tracker COVID-19 Integrated County View, 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. This does not include residence halls or private housing, including common areas within those spaces, or individual offices. Face coverings are required on Traveller (bus/van student transit system), and other shared university group transportation and at university-sponsored off-campus community-based learning events or any engagement with K-12 schools.
We recognize that local transmission levels may fluctuate. The University will therefore continue to monitor levels in our area and act accordingly. Any employee who prefers to take the additional precaution of wearing a mask at any time is encouraged to do so. Many members of our community may choose to wear masks in all settings to protect themselves and their family members, many of whom are children less than 12 years of age. No one should be discouraged from, or disparaged for, choosing to wear a mask and/or maintain a six-foot distance from others.
Between August 11 and September 7, 2021 the University will administer PCR COVID tests to all undergraduate and law students, regardless of their vaccination status, upon their initial arrival to campus. Test results will be available the day after testing. Arrival testing dates will be assigned, and students will pre-schedule an arrival testing appointment through the Aura app or web portal. There will be no arrival testing for employees.
Anyone with possible symptoms of COVID-19 is advised to stay home, contact their health care provider for assessment/indicated testing, and to self-isolate while the test result is pending. Students should contact the Student Health Center at 540-458-8401 for evaluation and testing. Employees should contact their personal healthcare provider or local urgent care center. The cost of such testing is typically billed to/covered by most health insurance plans.
All students and employees who have approved exemptions to the vaccination requirement and are not fully vaccinated are required to participate in weekly COVID testing. Screening testing for fully vaccinated individuals is not planned at the present time but may be resumed if indicated by local infection rates and public health guidance. If testing plans change, updates will be made to the Testing Plan posted on the COVID-19 Resources website.
Wastewater Surveillance Testing
The university has the ability to test wastewater from various campus buildings as a sentinel early indicator for presence of virus in identified locations. Wastewater surveillance is planned for the first few weeks of school and may be continued beyond that depending on indicators in the local environment.
Building Access and Cleaning/Disinfecting
The University will continue to take measures to keep on-campus residences, classrooms and offices clean and safe. Except for the use of electrostatic sprayers, which has been discontinued based on updated CDC guidance, Facilities' COVID-related protocols for academic buildings remain in place, including air quality measures and the regular cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch areas. A complete list of custodial services in academic buildings, and the frequency with which they take place, can be found on the Academic Custodians Menu of Services and Frequencies webpage. A list for residential buildings can be found on the Residential Custodians Menu of Services and Frequencies.
Additionally, classrooms and community office spaces will continue to be stocked with hand sanitizer, and hand sanitizing stations will remain in buildings across campus.
Expectations for Sick or Exposed Individuals
Any student diagnosed with COVID-19 should report their diagnosis to the Student Health Center within 24 hours of diagnosis and will receive instructions for isolating. Any employee diagnosed with COVID-19 should report their diagnosis through the Attestation website and directly Human Resources within 24 hours of diagnosis and will be required to isolate at home for 10 days.
Any student who is exposed to someone with COVID-19 should report their exposure through the Attestation website and follow public health guidance for post-exposure precautions and testing. After attesting "yes," the student should also contact the Student Health Center staff to determine instructions for precautions and testing. Any employee exposed to someone with COVID-19 must report exposure through the University's Attestation web site and follow public health guidance for post-exposure precautions and testing. Fully vaccinated employees may continue working on campus but should wear a mask in indoor spaces for 10 days after exposure to a known positive COVID case and obtain a COVID test three to five days following exposure. Human Resources will arrange for the test to be conducted at W&L, provided the employee has no symptoms at the time of the test. If positive, the employee will be required to isolate at home for 10 days.
Any student experiencing COVID-19 symptoms is expected to report their symptoms through the Attestation website and call the Student Health Center to schedule a test. Any employee experiencing COVID-19 symptoms is expected to report their symptoms through the University's Attestation website. Employees with symptoms will be contacted by a member of the Human Resources COVID Care Team and must isolate at home and seek a COVID test from a local provider. If positive, Human Resources will determine an appropriate return to work date.
Isolation and Quarantine
All COVID-positive employees and students who live off campus will be asked to isolate at home until cleared to return to work/school (using CDC-recommended time/symptom-based strategy). Students who live in on-campus housing will be moved temporarily to a central housing location where it will be easier to meet their needs for meal delivery, medical monitoring, etc.
The University has 35 individual rooms with shared bathrooms dedicated for student isolation and quarantine. Should the need for more spaces arise, we will utilize blocks of local hotel rooms. These facilities have separate entrances that can be accessed by approved personnel to provide meals, checks, etc. during the period of isolation. Those approved staff are trained in appropriate protocols and provided the necessary PPE to manage the environment safely.
The University has established separate but centralized points of contact for students and employees for case management support while they are in isolation or quarantine. Case managers schedule phone or e-mail check-ins, connect individuals with the appropriate resources to help meet their basic self-care needs, their medical monitoring/care needs, and their academic learning/teaching needs, as well as monitor their compliance with public health recommendations to restrict contacts until isolation/quarantine is completed.
Student Health Services
The University's Student Health Center operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week when the undergraduate program is in session. Plans and protocols are in place for safe delivery of medical care for students, with and without symptoms of possible COVID-19 infection, to minimize possible exposures for staff and for students who seek care. Those include universal masking, screening for COVID-19 symptoms/exposure, and physical separation of those who are ill from those who need other routine care.
COVID-19 testing is performed by nursing staff at a walk-up window, and an auxiliary clinic area is utilized for evaluation of ill students. All visits are scheduled, rather than on a walk-in basis, to facilitate screening and appropriate infection control/risk reduction strategies.
Medical telehealth visits are available through a secure platform when appropriate. A full-time Registered Nurse position has been added to the Health Center staff to assist with: COVID-19 testing, provider visits in the auxiliary clinic area, case investigation, contact tracing, tracking and management of students in isolation or quarantine, etc. The University Counseling Center provides both secure teletherapy and face-to-face visit options for students as appropriate, following current campus and public health guidance regarding infection prevention measures.
Large Events and Athletics Competitions
Because of the high level of vaccination among the campus community, the University has determined that gatherings such as reunions, performances, and ceremonies may take place in person if they can be done within the confines of current safety and mitigation measures. Athletics events will follow both NCAA and current University protocols.
Communication and COVID-19 Dashboard
The University will continue to maintain a dedicated website for COVID-19 communications and resources. This site has been available since mid-March 2019 and continues to be used to help inform the community on the latest information and guidance.
Beyond the website, as the pandemic continues to impact campus life, the University will move toward integrating ongoing COVID-related communications into regular University and department communications where appropriate. The COVID-19 Committee will continue to communicate pertinent information regarding the University's COVID response to the campus community through a variety of media, including the COVID-19 Resources website, signage, email, and social media.
In addition, the University will continue to maintain a COVID-19 dashboard on its website, which includes:
- Current active cases among students and employees
- Campus community vaccination rates
- Isolation/Quarantine capacity and usage
- Campus Environment Level
- Arrival testing results
- Testing Plan
- Other data as needed
Drewry Sackett, Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs, is a member of the COVID-19 Committee to assist with identifying and shaping related communications.
Regional Partnership and Coordination
The University actively communicates with local officials, agencies, and health systems relative to emergency management and other matters. Sidney Evans, Jane Horton and Drewry Sackett sit on a Regional Emergency Management Task Force that includes the three governmental jurisdictions, local institutions of higher education, and health providers. This group meets regularly to discuss the situation and resources available locally and to ensure that all parties have access to the best available information relative to decision-making and issues emerging.
Additionally, the surrounding area has a relatively small population for which W&L faculty and staff make up a significant portion. Faculty and staff are not only members of the Washington and Lee community but the broader Lexington/Rockbridge community. As such, it is all but impossible for University leadership not to be engaged in conversations and communications around the University and its impact on the local community.
Responding to Outbreaks on Campus
The university will respond to COVID-19 outbreaks on campus in accordance with current public health guidance and in partnership with VDH and local providers. Based on practices employed during the last academic year, we are prepared to increase COVID Care staff, on-campus testing capacity, and isolation and quarantine capacity as needed, and will employ additional mitigation measures as appropriate, including but not limited to:
- Physical distancing
- Cleaning and disinfecting protocols
- Limiting gathering size
- Limiting visitors to campus
- Limiting or altering large events
- Altering or limiting in-person dining
- Altering or limiting extracurricular activities
- Restricting occupancy/dedensification/staggered use of communal spaces
- Transitioning to hybrid or virtual instruction
Shutdown Considerations if Necessitated by Severe Conditions and/or Public Health Guidance
Decisions regarding dismissals and shutdowns will made in consultation with local and state public health officials. Because of the enormous set of variables involved in deciding whether it remains safe and viable to continue on-campus operations, the University is committed to consistent communication and shared guidance from the VDH and our local health partners to assess situations to make the appropriate determination. We will always be guided by the recommendations and requirements set out through local and state health officials along with the CDC to provide the safest environment to our students and employees relative to the COVID-19 pandemic. Should we need to close the campus, we have a strong blueprint for how to do so quickly and effectively.
In a closing of campus scenario, we will complete the term using virtual instruction. In addition, we will maintain certain resources on campus to allow us to serve those students not able to return home, as well as where practical provide services to students who did leave the area. From our experience, we believe we have effective systems and practices in place.
W&L will be guided by officials from VDH on the efficacy of whether to send students home or keep them on the campus. Likely factors that will be part of the consideration are breadth of cases on campus, how to allow or manage for safe travel, ability to staff and maintain critical services, and adequacy of isolation beds and quarantine spaces.