Today is St. Patrick’s Day, a day frequently marked by over-celebrating. Even in normal times I often write you at this time to encourage smart and safe behavior, especially if you choose to consume alcohol.
Of course, these are not normal times. As you have repeatedly heard, it remains critically important to continue complying with public health measures, which include wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance, and gathering only in groups of 10 or fewer individuals when outside or 6 when inside. Ideally, your small group will be a consistent pod with whom you gather.
Two factors are of critical importance right now. First, our medical colleagues report the emergence of more transmissible and more dangerous variants of COVID around the country. Some of these variants have been identified in our community. Second, the majority of people in the University and larger Charlottesville community have not been vaccinated and remain susceptible to this highly transmissible virus.
With regard to variants, UVA alumnus Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, spoke during an interview on this past Sunday’s CBS 60 Minutes program. Dr. Collins, renowned for leadership of the Human Genome Project, expressed both surprise and concern at how quickly and repeatedly the COVID-19 virus has mutated.
As we have seen within our own UVA community, the virus can spread quickly and lead to the need for restrictive measures to help control outbreaks. With your help, we have made tremendous gains in decreasing the number of student cases in the past two weeks. We hope to avoid more restrictive operations again.
Now is not the time for any of us to let down our guard. Please continue to do your part to closely follow all public health measures.
Allen W. Groves
University Dean of Students