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The University of Virginia is cancelling all in-person classes until further notice – this over coronavirus concerns — and it is urging all students to return home or stay there. All UVA classes will be conducted on line for the foreseeable future, perhaps through the end of the spring semester. The university is currently on spring break.


I write to share an update on our response to the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, and our plans for the remainder of the Spring semester.

To begin with the basic and important news:

These are obviously significant steps that will cause disruption and disappointment, which we all regret. We nonetheless feel compelled to take these steps in light of the most recent evidence. The virus continues to spread nationally and in Virginia. We still do not yet have a confirmed case of COVID-19 on Grounds or in the greater Charlottesville community, so our risk remains relatively low. Given that fact, the easiest and least disruptive option would have been to bring all students back to Grounds as planned and hope to make it through the rest of the semester without a confirmed case. We also considered bringing students back and moving only large classes online.

After talking more with medical experts, however, and as the evidence of the spread here and abroad mounts, we believe that these approaches would not be sufficient and would create too much risk, especially for our health system and the medical center, which is a Level 1 trauma center and may be stretched to the limits in the coming weeks and months. Experts have also told us that the best time to take steps to prevent that spread is now, before the first case arrives.

Our approach here is guided by three goals: (1) to protect the health of our students, faculty, staff, and Charlottesville neighbors; (2) to help slow the spread of the virus in Virginia and the nation; (3) to ensure the continuity of our teaching, research, and clinical care. All of those goals are advanced by reducing the number of people who are living and meeting on Grounds. We cannot eliminate all risks, of course, but we believe at this time these steps will help mitigate the risks we face.

To be clear, the University – including university buildings and UVA Health – will remain open, and we will bring students back to Grounds as soon as we can do so safely. While we hope to do so before the end of the semester, we may not be able to and are working on a number of contingency plans, including plans for graduation.

A few notes for specific groups:





We realize you will likely have questions, both about this decision and about COVID-19 in general. Starting today, you can go to this website for more information, and we have set up a call center (Domestic: 877-685-4836; International: +1 202-800-2408) with staff trained to answer the most common questions. We will also be sending out more detailed communications about various elements of this plan, which we will also post on the website. As this is an evolving situation, we will also provide updates if there are significant changes to the plan outlined in this email.

I would like to thank the teams from across the University who have been working incredibly hard over the last few weeks, and who will keep working hard to make this transition as smooth as possible. I am deeply grateful that UVA is home to so many expert, capable people who are dedicated to the well-being of our community and to our critical missions of teaching, research, and clinical care.

I would also like to thank all of you for your patience and understanding. Put simply, UVA has never encountered something quite like this. There is no roadmap for trying to put most of the University curriculum online in a week. But I have enormous faith in this community in your resilience, your willingness to do your part to keep others safe, and your ability to make the most of a very difficult situation.

I have special faith in our students, for whom the health risks are generally low and for whom the disappointments are high, but who I know will recognize that now is the time to think first of the well-being of others.

We are in this together, though I recognize that the impact will be uneven. As the father of a graduating senior at another university who has been asked to return home, I know this decision will hit our fourth-year students especially hard. It will also create economic challenges and hardships for some in the Charlottesville community whose livelihoods depend on our students. We will make it through this together by supporting each other, thinking creatively, and staying connected even if physically separated. I cannot pretend, obviously, that this is how I hoped this semester would unfold. No one can. But I eagerly await the ingenuity, compassion, and kindness that this common challenge will surely unlock within our community. If there were ever a time to be both great and good, this is surely it.



James E. Ryan
University of Virginia