WVU prepares for semester facing possible rise in covid

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WVU prepares for semester facing possible rise in covid
The tower on Stewart Hall overlooks the downtown campus at West Virginia University at Morgantown, WV.

The spring 2021 semester at begins on January 19, and WVU officials are urging students and employees to exercise extreme caution.

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The largest university in the Mountain State, enrollment at its main campus in usually exceeds 25,000 annually while more than 29,000 enrolled statewide, including those at its new southern campus at .

Health experts at the university, including Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president of health sciences and the state's COVID-19 czar, have cautioned that the worst rise in cases has yet to come and may happen later this month.

"With that, all employees and students should head into the spring semester with safety at the forefront," officials announced in a public statement outlining the return to the university.

"The university believes its safety protocols, if abided by correctly, will help to keep the campus communities safe and allow students to return and continue their education successfully this spring."

Across the country, the pandemic is spreading faster than ever. In West Virginia, cases have continued to increase since students left for winter break. As of Jan. 10, the state was suffering 101,212 cases. In Monongalia County, where the school's main campuses are located, there are 5,032 cases.

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The university is asking its students and employees to commit to the safety measures implements last fall, though with even more dedication.

  • Wear a mask or face covering on and off-campus. These are required on campus at all times, indoors and outdoors, unless in a private office, vehicle, or in a residence hall room or while eating.
  • Practice safe physical distancing on and off-campus of six feet. Data show the majority of COVID-19 spread in the fall took place off-campus, so it’s important to practice physical distancing when away from campus, as well.
  • Practice good hand and cough hygiene; wash hands for at least 20 seconds and use hand sanitizer as needed. Cover coughs, even while wearing a mask.
  • Monitor symptoms daily. For personal safety and the safety of others, don’t ignore symptoms of COVID-19; those with any symptoms of COVID-19 should not report to campus for work or class. Students should call WVU Medicine Student Health at 304-285-7200. Employees should contact their primary care physician or WVU Medicine’s COVID-19 phone number at 304-598-6000 (Option 4).
  • If requested, take a COVID-19 test as part of the baseline and ongoing testing procedures.
  • Report positive COVID-19 test results to the University. Students should notify WVU Shared Services at 304-293-6006 or CareServices@mail.wvu.edu, and employees should notify WVU Medical Management.

All of these measures help to slow the spread of COVID-19, which is more important now than it has ever been. While local hospitals are effectively managing COVID-19 cases, examples from all across the country illustrate that a potential surge in capacity could be a possibility. Students, faculty, and staff must continue to take the pandemic seriously.


Return to campus testing

To start the semester safely, all students and employees who will be on campus at any point are required to be tested for COVID-19 by Saturday, Jan. 16. Employee testing began last Friday, Jan. 8, and student testing began today (Jan. 11). Those who have not yet scheduled a test may do so at  but limited times are available.

The WVU Keyser and WVU Beckley campuses are conducting free return-to-campus COVID-19 testing programs separate from the Morgantown program. Students, faculty, and staff at these campuses should continue to monitor their email for additional information.

Students must be tested on campus; outside test results will not be accepted. Those who have had COVID-19 within the last 90 days are not required to be tested but must notify WVU Shared Services. Those who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 are still required to complete COVID-19 testing.

Results will be available within three days of the test. Unlike the fall semester, students must receive a negative test result before classes start on Jan. 19 or they will not be allowed into the classroom for instruction. Only those who receive negative results can be on campus. Health Sciences students who started the semester in early January were tested at that time and should follow the guidance of their dean or program director.

Those who tested positive for COVID-19 over the winter break and have yet to notify the University must do so. Students should notify WVU Shared Services at 304-293-6006 or CareServices@mail.wvu.edu, and employees should notify WVU Medical Management.


COVID-19 module for new, incoming students

New students starting at WVU this spring are required to take the COVID-19 education module by Saturday, Jan. 16. Those who are returning this spring do not need to retake the module. To complete the COVID-19 module, visit . Those required to take the module received an email from covidmodule@notify.wvu.edu with more information, as well. Please check junk and spam folders for expected emails that have not been received.


Ongoing testing

Each week, at least 10 percent of students who will be on campus will be asked to be tested for COVID-19 as part of the University’s ongoing testing plan. Some students and employees may be asked to test more frequently due to their involvement in certain majors, programs, residence halls, sports teams, etc. Those who have been selected at random to be tested will receive an email from COVIDtesting@mail.wvu.edu.

Students and employees may be asked to perform a self-administered RT-PCR test. There will be trained clinical staff to assist those who opt out of self-administered testing.

Ongoing testing is conducted to assess the general health of the community and if spread of COVID-19 exists. Combined with other preventive safety measures, testing provides critical data to help inform the University of our overall campus safety.

In addition, the Monongalia County Health Department will offer community testing opportunities on the Morgantown campus, which the WVU community can participate in. Visit  for more information.

University employees working in hybrid or in-person capacities will continue to have the option to receive a COVID-19 test weekly if desired throughout the spring semester. Tests may be scheduled at .


Academics

The semester will begin on Tuesday, Jan. 19. As announced late last year, the University has made the following changes to the spring academic calendar:

In addition to Thursday, Feb. 11, and Wednesday, March 3, a third non-instructional day is now scheduled for Tuesday, March 2. There is now a "prep day" on Monday, May 3, which was originally the first day of final exam week. Final exams will now start a day later on Tuesday, May 4, and continue through the morning of Saturday, May 8.

These calendar changes are in effect for all WVU campuses, with the exception of some Health Sciences programs and other professional programs due to clinical rotation requirements, accreditation standards, and other concerns. At the start of the spring semester, students should contact their program coordinators or instructors for more information.

Faculty and students should note that these changes leave no excess instructional days in the calendar. If the University should have to close campus due to weather or other reason, instruction will be required to continue through remote learning.

For the spring semester, there will again be a mix of in-person, hybrid, and online-only classes. During the November registration for the spring semester, students indicated a slightly higher preference for online course offerings than we previously anticipated. A total of 67% of the registered seats are now in online sections, and 33% are in in-person sections. In online courses, 60% of registered seats are in synchronous (or real-time) sections, which is a 14% increase from the fall semester.

WVU offers many resources such as tutoring, success coaching, and workshops to help students be academically successful.

WVU tutoring centers continue to offer virtual drop-in tutoring and virtual tutoring appointments. The  website provides links to the various tutoring centers across the WVU System as well as a tool to help students identify the most appropriate center to contact for help.
Student Success Coaches work individually with students to enhance their academic success in time management, note-taking, reading, and study skills. To request a success coach visit the website.
More than 50 on-demand workshops (Student Lingo) are available 24/7 and cover important topics such as exam preparation, taking tests online, and staying motivated in online learning. For more information visit .
MindFit is a program offering a range of services designed to help students overcome obstacles to academic success, including enhanced academic support and coaching, as well as innovative, brain-based interventions - such as cognitive training and neurofeedback - to improve attention span, memory, and cognitive functioning. For more information, including the cost of these services, visit .

As with the fall semester, the University will implement a traditional grading scale this spring and will not offer a high pass/pass/fail option. Students who may wish to pursue advanced education beyond college could be disadvantaged by having more than one pass/fail semester on their undergraduate transcript. The University knows that many academic admissions committees carefully scrutinize pass/fail grades on an applicant’s transcript.

After reviewing current travel bans and global infrastructures, such as healthcare and transportation systems, WVU has decided that faculty-led study abroad programs will not run this summer. Faculty-led programs tend to be more mobile, with participants traveling to multiple sites and cities, and require significant advance planning. Continued uncertainty around international travel serves as a significant obstacle to such planning. Students and academic advisers who have questions about whether a long-term placement is feasible should contact the Office of Global Affairs.


Isolation and quarantine procedures

WVU’s testing program will include the use of two types of diagnostic tests during the spring semester:

The RT-PCR test detects the virus’s genetic material – the RNA – and is sensitive enough to need only a small amount. PCR tests can take from 24-72 hours to provide results and are regarded as the gold standard testing method.
Rapid antigen tests detect specific proteins from the virus and are particularly useful for rapidly identifying a person who is at or near peak infection. Generally, antigen tests provide faster results but can be less accurate asymptomatic screenings.

Using a combination of the two types of tests will help us identify positive cases quickly and slow the spread of COVID-19.

The University has made slight modifications to isolation and quarantine procedures to allow for more rapid identification and separation of positive individuals. Rapid antigen tests (same-day results) may be used on those who develop symptoms of COVID-19. If that test is positive, the person will be placed into isolation and will receive a RT-PCR test, which will confirm if a person has COVID-19.

As with the fall semester, students living in the residence halls who have COVID-19 will be isolated in Arnold Apartments or Gaskins House.

Those asked to quarantine for 14 days will have the opportunity to shorten their quarantine time to 10 days if they have no symptoms during the 10-day period, receive a negative RT-PCR test result on day 6-7 and follow all safety measures - including daily symptom monitoring - through day 14. Additionally, those students living in the residence halls who are deemed to be at greatest risk of developing infection from close contact (e.g., roommates and intimate partners of positive cases) will have repeated antigen testing during their quarantine period.


COVID-19 vaccine

WVU began administering COVID-19 vaccines to its most at-risk employees two weeks ago and continues to do so. At this point, WVU has inoculated 240 employees. It’s important to have patience and to continue to follow COVID-19 safety measures to help protect yourself and others who may wait longer for vaccine availability.

The University will distribute vaccine doses based on state guidelines developed by the West Virginia Joint Interagency Task Force. Those recommendations state that age is the primary determinant of risk for contracting and dying from the COVID-19 virus; those aged 65 and older are receiving the vaccines as it becomes available. The University will continue to provide allotted doses of the vaccine as it is distributed and will communicate as additional groups are eligible.

WVU will not require the vaccine at this time for students or employees; however, all within the WVU community are encouraged to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Assuming the University receives sufficient supplies of vaccines this semester, students should also have the opportunity to receive the vaccine. As WVU is provided with additional guidance from the West Virginia Joint Interagency Task Force, the University will provide instructions on how students can show interest in being vaccinated. Until then, students should continue to monitor your email and contact their primary care physician for possible allocations that may be offered.

As a reminder, it’s important that all employees and students get an influenza vaccination. Contact WVU Medicine Student Health at 304-285-7200 to schedule an appointment.

WVU will send out COVID-19 vaccine interest forms via email from COVIDvaccine@mail.wvu.edu to those in a specific age range as additional doses are available. Once completed, follow-up instructions will be sent via email from COVIDvaccine@mail.wvu.edu with a second email from vams@cdc.gov with a link to register on how to schedule a vaccination appointment through the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) when a dosage is available. All WVU students and employees will be vaccinated at the Student Rec Center. Employees who have completed the COVID-19 vaccine survey but have yet to hear more will receive instructions as doses become available.

WVU Medicine employees are not included in WVU’s vaccination plans and should reach out to WVU Medicine if they have questions.

The University has updated its COVID-19 dashboard with the number of vaccine doses administered each week, as well.

For questions about vaccinations, email COVIDvaccine@mail.wvu.edu.

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine at https://wvumedicine.org/news/article/wvu-medicine-officials-answer-frequently-asked-questions-aboutcovid-vaccine/.


Daily wellness survey

Unlike the fall semester, the daily wellness survey will not be required for employees and students this spring. However, select groups (e.g., some Health Sciences programs) may continue to complete it as determined by those programs. Students and employees will receive communications from individual departments/units if they will continue to require completion of the survey.

Without this daily reminder to monitor symptoms, it’s important that students and employees continue to self-monitor and alert their primary care physician or WVU Medicine Student Health if COVID-19 symptoms surface.


On-campus activities

Students will have limited availability to the Student Rec Center during the spring semester. Exercise and workout areas will be closed, however the Rec Center will be open for some academic classes. Since the fall, the building has been an important spot for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations and will continue to be used for those critical purposes throughout the spring semester. As with the fall, there will be a variety of exercise programs and equipment rentals available. Group exercise classes begin Wednesday, Jan. 19; the schedule is available at http://campusrecreation.wvu.edu. Self-guided workouts, offered in a variety of formats, are available on the website, as well.

WVU will continue the Refresh activities series this semester. Activities will begin the week of Jan. 18 and will mainly be virtual for the safety of all students. The series will include:

baking classes with New York Times best-selling author Dorie Greenspan
cooking classes with Ashley Moore from America’s Test Kitchen and Chef Lish Steiling of the Taste Curators
crafting classes with the Crafty Lumberjacks
skincare and glam-up classes with Julie Morgan, makeup artist to the stars
group fitness classes and more

The Craft Center will not be open as classes start, however may open later in the semester.

Adventure WV will offer online, interactive sports events where students can learn more about popular winter outdoor pursuits like skiing and snowboarding. Specialized group online programs are available at no cost for all recognized student organizations.

Club sports teams may meet virtually at this time, however there is no travel, in-person activities or competition permitted. The resumption of in-person programming, including club sports’ activities, will be evaluated around Feb. 1.

WVUp All Night returns virtually on Friday and Saturday nights beginning Friday, Jan. 22. In-person activities will resume when it is determined it is safe to do so.

As students return to campus, members of the Greek community will begin preparation for virtual new member recruitment. Key dates are as follows:

Primary recruitment for sororities will be held Jan. 29 through Feb. 7. Potential new member orientation will be Jan. 27.
Interfraternity Council member organizations will begin recruitment Monday, Feb. 1.
The Professional Greek Council Executive Council began hosting information sessions beginning Sunday, Jan. 3.

For additional virtual Greek recruitment dates, including individual chapter information, visit http://greeklife.wvu.edu.

A virtual student organization fair will take place Wednesday, Jan. 27 at noon. For additional activities, visit , ,  and watch UNEWS.

The Carruth Center is available this semester for virtual and in-person counseling services, as well.


Additional updates

Additional updates and information about the spring semester regarding details on parking, transportation, tuition, fees, and more were shared in mid-November. Additional announcements can be found on the Return-to-Campus website.


Communications

The campus community is invited to join a Return-to-Campus Conversation on Thursday, Jan. 14, from 10-11:30 a.m. to hear from administrators and public health experts and ask them questions.

COVID-19 questions can be submitted, or email returntocampus@mail.wvu.edu for more information. Visit  for the latest information

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