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Fall 2020 Common Questions FAQ

Have you reached out to us in the last few months or are looking for information about what changes COVID-19 has made to the Fall 2020 semester? Check out some answers below about student testing, where students can eat and socialize and much more. This post will continue to be updated throughout the year. Have additional questions? Email us at ramfamilies@vcu.edu and we can help connect you with the best department to assist you.

What can my student do other than class to get them out of their room and to meet people?

There are many different events your student can participate in throughout the semester virtually or in-person. Programming has been communicated to students including Weeks of Welcome activities which started August 7 and will continue until the end of September. More information about Weeks of Welcome can be found on their website and students can view events by logging in to RamsConnect. We highly encourage students to participate in these events to connect with fellow students. In addition to Weeks of Welcome events your student can participate in any of the following:

I would also recommend your student follow VCU accounts on the social media platform of their choice. I would recommend the Activities Programming Board at VCU and the Division of Student Affairs for frequent posts about upcoming events in which your student can participate.

Where can my student gather on campus for eating and socializing?

VCU has installed tents with more than 100 seats for students, faculty and staff to use for eating and studying. The tents are located at three locations: on the south side of Hibbs Hall, on the east side of James Branch Cabell Library, and along the west side of Shafer Court Dining Center and Shafer Street Playhouse. The tents are open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

VCU has also dedicated some classroom space in Hibbs Hall for eating and studying. The classrooms and hours of operation Monday through Friday are listed below:

*Room 262: 10:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

*Room 264: 7:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m. Monday–Thursday and 7:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. on Friday

*Room 429: 8:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

*Room 440: 11:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

*Room 441: 7:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m. Monday–Thursday and 7:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. on Friday

Stations with disinfectant wipes will be provided in both the tents and the classrooms. Individuals should clean up after themselves, disinfect shared surfaces before and after use, and not move the furniture that has been positioned to maintain physical distancing.

What dining options are available for my student on campus? What is swipe exchange and how do they use it?

The VCU Dining website has a list of all the locations that accept a VCU meal plan and the hours of each location, showing in real-time whether they are open or closed. Swipe exchange information can be found on the VCU Dining Facebook page along with a map of vegetarian and vegan options on campus.

What is the difference between isolation and quarantine in residence halls?

Isolation is used to separate people infected with the virus, including those who are sick with COVID-19 and those with no symptoms, from people who are not infected. Residents who are sick with COVID-19 or presenting symptoms associated with COVID-19 will be moved to a temporary room in Gladding Residence Center III to isolate for no less than 10 days. Please see additional information on What to do if you have or suspect you have coronavirus (COVID-19). Isolated residents will remain in Gladding Residence Center III until they can be around others. During isolation, residents should remain in their assigned sick room and use only the bathroom inside their suite.

Isolation accommodations in Gladding Residence Center III include a private suite with a fully furnished bedroom, private bathroom (includes shower rod, curtain, and toilet paper), living area with a table with chairs and a kitchenette with a refrigerator, microwave and sink. Residents will have access to VCU SafeNet Wireless in each suite and hardwired internet in each bedroom to complete coursework and necessary communications. Residents must comply with all health and safety protocols, including following the protocols described in the CDC guidance.

As described by the CDC, Quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Quarantine helps prevent the spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms. Residents advised to quarantine must stay in their assigned room, separate themselves from others, monitor their health and follow directions from Richmond Health District or VCU contact tracing team, for 14 days from the last contact with a positive case. For additional information please see guidance from CDC, Quarantine if you might be sick.

Is VCU tracking Covid cases separately from the City of Richmond?

VCU’s COVID-19 dashboard provides transparent details about the number of positive cases in our community and additional numbers related to testing, numbers of those in quarantine and in isolation. The dashboard will be updated daily Monday through Friday and will be the most accurate way to track COVID-19 at VCU.

It is important to note that VCU will not widely communicate details about individual cases to the community or to media out of respect for the privacy of any COVID-19 patients. Several privacy laws apply to the communication of information about students, employees, and patients that could result in the unintentional disclosure of individual health information and status. For this reason, VCU plans on providing data on the dashboard in an aggregated format and does not provide information on particular groups or specific locations so as to avoid the inadvertent identification of individuals’ health information and status.

Working with our partners in the Virginia Department of Health, our Student Health and Employee Health offices will work to notify individuals reported to them who may have been exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 so that they may monitor their own health symptoms and self-quarantine.

What is prevalence testing and how can my student volunteer?

To volunteer for prevalence testing, fill out the online form at covidtest.vcu.edu/. Participants will receive a viral, oropharyngeal (throat) swab test, not the more invasive nasopharyngeal swab in the nose. If you are selected to participate in prevalence testing, VCU will contact you with details about how to participate and receive your test results. Because the sample population for prevalence testing will change daily to ensure those tested are representative of the VCU community as a whole, we need as many faculty, staff and non-residential students as possible to opt into the pool.

What is the determination for if students will be sent home for online learning only?

There isn’t one number that triggers an operational change. The Public Health Response Team — which meets and communicates daily to monitor, assess and address the situation — would make those recommendations about operational changes on campus due to COVID-19 based on a number of factors, including prevalence of COVID-19 on campus and in the Richmond area, testing availability, and available hospital and isolation space. This dashboard is a resource for following some of these data points: https://together.vcu.edu/dashboard/.

VCU’s decisions about whether to make changes in operation are based on the recommendations of the VCU Public Health Response Team. The team was formed to:

  1. Monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 in the VCU community and develop protocols for response to rise in incidence rate 
  2. Develop protocols for call center operations and contact tracing team
  3. Manage response to local outbreaks of COVID-19
  4. Make recommendations to VCU administration regarding local and general closure

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