We have seen a rapid spike in coronavirus cases across the country and these increases have triggered new restrictions in many states, including Virginia.
Here at George Mason University, we have also experienced an uptick in cases in our community. On Monday, active cases at Mason totaled 42 – including 33 students (mostly off-campus), seven employees and two contractors. Our leadership and safety experts continue to monitor the situation and are in contact with public health officials. At this time, we are confident that the situation remains manageable. Our ability to manage this crisis is in no small part a credit to the efforts of students, faculty and staff, who have done an extraordinary job of following new safety guidelines. We will continue to update the university community should things change.
We are now one week away from the Thanksgiving holiday. This is traditionally a time for a well-deserved break from our studies and work so that we can see family and friends and offer gratitude for our blessings. However, public health officials are warning that social gatherings and family events pose a great risk for spreading the virus, so please keep that in mind when making your plans.
As you know, Governor Ralph Northam announced new restrictions on public gatherings last week. I also want to make you aware of how these changes will impact activity here at Mason.
Academic instruction and most university operations will remain unchanged. The university will switch to virtual instruction after the Thanksgiving holiday, as planned, and buildings will remain open for those employees who need to be on campus. Our review of our public health data confirms that transmission has not occurred among students, faculty, or staff attending classes, working or campus, or participating in extracurricular university events.
New limits on non-instructional events. The university will be limiting non-instructional events and activities on campus to 25 people or less. Some events may be modified or postponed. Please check with organizers. Attendance at Eagle Bank Arena and other public venues on campus will be restricted to either 30 percent of occupancy or 250 people, whichever is lower.
Residential students should avoid traveling next week. For those that choose to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, please complete your studies virtually and do not return to campus until it reopens for the spring semester, on or after January 20. Those who are unable to change holiday plans are being asked to apply through Housing and Residence Life for an exemption. A notice from University Life went out to residential students yesterday, so please look for that if you haven’t seen it.
All members of our community should take additional precautions both on campus and when traveling. For students, faculty and staff who do travel for the holidays, please implement the health and safety precautions that have worked well on campus. Please continue to wear a mask in public, practice physical distancing, complete the Mason COVID Health Check™, and if you feel unwell, isolate and call your healthcare provider. If you have had exposure to COVID-19, abide by medical and public health recommendations, and quarantine.
We will continue to monitor the situation and are in touch with public health officials as we prepare for the spring semester. Our goal is to keep our community safe and provide the best education for students.