Due to more than 400 active COVID-19 cases, the University has implemented a “two-week directive” to slow the spread of cases.
In an email sent to the community on Friday afternoon, the University told students that they are still able to attend in-person classes and utilize campus facilities, but they must stay in their residence halls “to the greatest extent possible and curtail in-person interactions with others outside their own room, apartment or household,” the email said.
In addition to the directive, Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD. warned students that if the number of cases continued to increase, he will have no choice but to send everyone home.
Last Friday, the spike began with 31 new cases. The next day the number of new cases jumped to 66. Every day since, the number of new cases has stayed around the high 60s, with the highest number of new cases reaching 76 on Wednesday.
University administration attempted several times before the new directive was implemented to encourage students to follow COVID-19 guidelines. Rev. John P. Stack, OSA, Vice President for Student Life, emailed students both last Sunday and Tuesday, addressing the trend in cases and warning students that they must follow the Caritas Commitment.
“If this trend continues, Father Peter will have no option but to end the semester on campus. We must immediately act in ways that will bring our numbers down and we must do this together,” Stack said in his email on Sunday.
The trend did continue, and the University was forced to act.
“The number of COVID-19 positive cases on campus among the student population over the past week warrants significant action to slow the spread,” Donohue wrote. “As a result, and effective immediately, I am implementing a two-week directive for all students to slow the spread.”
The email listed the rules of the “Slow the Spread Student Directive.” On-campus residents are only allowed off campus for “emergency or essential purposes” and Wildcard access to other residence halls have been temporarily suspended. The number of visitors per room has also changed. Now only the number of occupants plus one are allowed in the room. Off campus students are allowed on campus for in-person classes and to use campus resources or facilities, but are not permitted in any residence hall building.
In addition, all in-person co-curricular student organizations and activities are now only virtual or in a remote setting. Athletics are still allowed to continue, yet they must follow NCAA and Villanova-regulated guidelines. The email also explained that seating in the dining will now be limited and reminded students to continue to wear their masks and social distance.
Jonathan Gust, Executive Director of Media Relations for the University, explained how this directive will be regulated and enforced.
“This will be accomplished in a combination of ways, including monitoring by Public Safety and Residence Hall staff. Additionally, fellow students are holding each other accountable when guidelines aren’t being followed. We expect that will increase, as we know students want to be able to finish the semester on campus,” Gust wrote in an email.
In regard to the students who do not follow the directives, “students will be subject to the full range of sanctions, including loss of on-campus housing or suspension,” Gust wrote.
Along with his email, Donohue included a video plea. He told students that he hoped this was a “reality check” and warned students of what would happen if they chose to disregard the directive.
“If the numbers continue to rise, I will have no choice but to send you all home,” Donohue said. “If we have to close, I’m not sure I can bring you back this semester.”
Donohue thanked the students who were following the rules and prayed that students would take this warning seriously.
“I pray that together we will weather this current storm. It’s up to all of us,” Donohue said. “Once again, V’s up. Masks on. Community first.”