Students mixed on possible mandate to download 'COVIDWISE' app

Posted at 9:02 PM, Aug 21, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. — Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has sent a letter to the four post-secondary institutions in the city to request they consider mandating that all students and staff download and install the state’s exposure notification smartphone app "COVIDWISE.

The letter, sent Thursday, was sent to the presidents of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Virginia Union University (VUU), the University of Richmond (UR), and Reynolds Community College.

“[I]n the interest of the health and safety of the entire city, I strongly suggest your administration make the installation of COVIDWISE, the state’s non-invasive, life-saving contact tracing app, mandatory for all students and staff,” wrote Stoney.

CBS 6 has reached out to the institutions for comment on the mayor’s request.

“We are in agreement that the health and safety of our entire college community is of primary concern and we are taking every precaution. The COVIDWISE app link appears on our website, among our other resources, for this purpose,” wrote a spokesperson for Reynolds.

“VCU has communicated about the state's COVIDWISE app through email and social media channels and it is recognized as an important health and safety app we are encouraging our students to download.on the main page of our ONE VCU: Responsible Togetherm website,” wrote a spokesperson for VCU.

Statewide, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Health said that as of August 20 the app has been downloaded 407,801 times. They said this is “an estimated 9.6% of Virginians between the ages of 18-65 with a smartphone.”

Cases on Campus

As students begin to return to school for on-campus living and some in-person classes, cases of COVID-19 have been reported at some of the area schools.

UR’s COVID-19 dashboard reports six active cases as of August 18.

On Thursday, VCU reported 36 cases total. 25 among students and 11 among staff. It added that eight of the student cases resulted from a party.

Friday’s update to its COVID-19 dashboard showed no increase in the number of cases. But it increased the number of infected students isolating on campus from 11 to 13 and increased the number of students quarantining on campus because of possible exposure to the virus from 32 to 67.

CBS 6 asked if the university was reconsidering the in-person classes and on-campus living for the fall semester as a result of the positive tests.

“There are dozens of variables that could potentially impact any number of university operations including the decision to transition to remote learning and working,” wrote a VCU spokesperson in response. “VCU’s Public Health Response Team and Incident Coordination Team consistently review new guidelines from the CDC, VDH and our own medical and science experts, in addition to testing data and reports of COVID-19 related symptoms to make decisions about both safety protocols and university operations.”

Weeks of Welcome Event Still Scheduled

VCU also confirmed it was still planning to hold a carnival on Saturday as part of its “Weeks of Welcome.” The carnival will be held on the three-acre Cary Street Field “to ensure adequate physical distancing”.

A spokesperson said unlike past years, the school is limiting attendance to 40-students or less in one hour rotations. Students will have to register in advance for a spot and wear a mask when attending. They add there will be kiosks for voluntary temperature checks.

They added cleaning will occur after each session.