As Richmond area colleges start the fall semester, the impact from COVID-19 exposure and cases remains unclear.
Both Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and the University of Richmond (UR) have implemented new policy and procedures which students, faculty and employees must strictly adhere to.
VCU residential students must complete a daily health survey and there are normal COVID-19 policies such as wearing a mask, social distancing as well as cleaning and disinfecting shared spaces.
UR has many of the same policies regarding wearing a mask or face coverings and daily health screening for students, faculty and staff, according to the schools website.
With VCU only one week into the semester and UR beginning classes on Monday, it’s too early to tell if the measures in place are making a difference.
As of Sunday, there are 58 VCU students and 12 employees with cases of COVID-19, with 39 residential students currently in isolation, According to the VCU Covid dashboard.
Last week, the Richmond-Times Dispatch broke a story reporting that of a little more than 4,500 students on campus, about 25 VCU students – 11 of which were on campus – and 11 employees contracting COVID.
However some VCU students are upset with the COVID numbers and remain concerned for their health and safety.
Since students and faculty begin a mix of in person and online classes Monday, Richmond’s numbers are low. As of Tuesday, there have been 11 total cumulative cases, six cases being active, 1,285 tests conducted and a total positivity percentage of 0.9, according to the UR COVID-19 dashboard.
As the semester begins and students resume their close-to-normal daily college routines, those numbers will likely increase.
Both Richmond and VCU will hold students accountable for violating the established health and safety policies.
In a letter to the VCU community on Thursday by the VCU president, provost and interim CEO of the VCU health system, it said that students hosting parties or other personal gatherings both on and off campus are subject to interim suspension.
Richmond students who host parties or large gatherings off campus or fail to comply with directives from university officials to stay in quarantine or isolation could be subject to a suspension. Additionally, students can be evicted from their housing if they host a party of large gathering on campus, according to UR’s interim student conduct policies.
Two University of Richmond students have already been evicted from their on campus housing for not adhering to the policies, a current UR student told The Virgina Star.
Students have already been suspended for not following new COVID-19 policies at other Virginia colleges. Seven Virginia Tech students were suspended for off-campus incidents, according to a letter sent to all students from Byron Hughes, dean of students, while The Roanoke Times reported that three Radford students were suspended.
It remains to be seen if punishments for violating COVID-19 policies will effectively stop students from gathering in violation of proximity rules.
As students return to class and cases rise, The Star asked how many cases of COVID-19 would be required to switch from in-person to virtual learning.
VCU did not have a specific answer.
“VCU has a Public Health Response Team which would monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 in the VCU community and develop protocols for response to rise in incidence rate,” VCU director of communications and marketing Matthew Lovisa said. “This team also manages response to local outbreaks of COVID-19 and makes recommendations to VCU administration regarding local and general closure.”
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