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Coronavirus: Frequently Asked Questions

Note: The FAQs below cover general questions. For information specific to students, faculty, staff, and more, see the following pages:

For additional information on interim University policies and procedures, visit the COVID-19 Interim Policies page.

Updated: March 31, 2020

General Information
What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people such as has been seen with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2014 and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, and now with 2019 novel coronavirus or COVID-19, as it has now been called.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is part of a large family of coronaviruses, some of which cause illness in people and others that circulate among animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people. This happened with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2014, and now COVID-19. These viruses may cause mild to severe respiratory illnesses with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, particularly those in persons with underlying severe and chronic health issues, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is now spreading from person to person. The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Learn what is known about the spread of newly emerged coronaviruses at coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/transmission.html .

What is the incubation period for this virus?

The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days.

How concerned should I be about contracting COVID-19?

The potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, both globally and to the United States. Individual risk remains dependent on exposure. For information about how to protect yourself visit the CDC website.

Who should get a coronavirus screening?

Health care providers should make screening determinations. People who think they have been exposed to COVID-19 should review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus Self-Checker, which advises those experiencing symptoms to call their health care provider for medical advice. Older adults and people with serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease should contact their health care provider early, even if their illness is mild.

How can I avoid becoming ill?

Protect yourself and others from infection by following these practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading any virus to others. If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes in your elbow or sleeve.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay at home when you are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. When used correctly, commercially available disposable disinfectant wipes, cloths, or towelettes are effective for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.
  • Avoid sharing household items like dishes, cups, eating utensils, bedding and towels.
I recently returned from an area where COVID-19 is present and have symptoms consistent with coronavirus. What should I do?
  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
I have not traveled recently to an area where COVID-19 is present, but I have symptoms of respiratory illness. Can I come to campus?

Students, faculty and staff who have symptoms of respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work or class until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 72 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).

What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?

While both isolation and quarantine refer to methods of preventing the spread of illness, they do not mean the same thing.

Isolation refers to separating people who are sick from those who are not sick.

Quarantine refers to separating people who are, or may have been, exposed to a pathogen, but are not showing signs of illness. Quarantine is used to make sure individuals are not contagious by minimizing contact with people who were not exposed during an illness’ incubation period—the time it takes for symptoms to emerge.


What does social distancing mean?

Social distancing is a term that epidemiologists use to refer to the conscious effort to reduce close contact between people, in an effort to reduce community transmission of a virus. Social distancing does not mean avoiding all activities. Examples of social distancing include:

  • Keeping a distance of six feet between you and another person
  • Staggering your work schedule or when you visit places such as the grocery store to hours they are typically not as busy
  • Limiting in-person meetings or social contacts
General Questions
Is the University closed?

The University has moved to a modified operational status that involves a combination of on-campus and remote work. See the University’s Interim Policies for more information on this modified operational status. Operating hours may be adjusted for certain facilities on campus. Please check websites for the most accurate information about hours.

Are there confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the University of Richmond?

No. We’re committed to keeping the University community informed about important health information. If there is a case of COVID-19 on campus, the University will share that information with the community.

Is the Student Health Center prepared to test or treat a student with coronavirus?

The Student Health Center has been preparing for COVID-19 and is working closely with public health officials. Students should call the Student Health Center for advice and to tell them about recent travel and symptoms.  Students should NOT go to the Student Health Center without calling first at 289-8700.

What will the University do if there is a suspected case of COVID-19 on campus?

Any suspected case of COVID-19 would be communicated to the campus community. The individual would be required to self-isolate, and the University would work with the local health department to identify close contacts. At the direction of the health department, the University would provide support to individuals required to self-quarantine.

What will happen if the University needs to assist someone with self-quarantine?

In the event a student residing on campus needs to self-quarantine, the University will move that student to a designated isolation room on campus and will provide support and assistance.

Employees required to self-quarantine should work with their supervisors to determine if work can be performed remotely during this time. See the University's Interim Policies for more information.


Is the University planning to ask students, faculty, or staff traveling from areas impacted with COVID-19 but not exhibiting symptoms, to self-quarantine?

Yes, in accordance with guidance from the CDC, anyone that has traveled internationally must self-quarantine for 14 days. Additionally, individuals that have traveled domestically to New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut must self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to campus.

How can members of the Spider community help?

The university is working to help students who need financial assistance to handle unexpected expenses in this moment. We are very grateful to alumni, parents, families, and members of the community who have reached out to ask how they can help. We have set up a webpage where spiders can give to the Student Emergency Fund in order to help with our efforts.

Who should I contact if asked about the University donating items to support COVID-19 response efforts in the community?

So that we can properly track university resources and ensure any donations are routed to legitimate organizations with the most need, any and all requests for donations or assistance should be sent directly to Emergency Management. Emergency Management will vet the request, coordinate with the appropriate office(s) on campus, and will provide support if possible.

What does Governor Northam's executive order mean for the University?

On March 30, Governor Northam issued a new, temporary “stay-at-home” order that will remain in place until June 10, 2020, unless rescinded earlier. The full text of the order is available here. The order allows people to leave their homes for a number of reasons that are applicable to our work on behalf of the University and to each of you personally. The order permits, among other things: 

  • Traveling to and from one’s residence and place of work;
  • Traveling to and from an educational institution; and
  • Institutions of higher education to continue to operate for purposes of facilitating remote learning, performing critical research, or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing requirements are maintained.

These provisions are critical to us, as some members of our community must continue to have access to our campus for student support and research purposes.

 The University is already in compliance with the key aspects of the Governor’s new order. The University has shifted to remote work to the fullest extent possible and will continue remote work through June 10, unless the executive order is lifted. The University has also moved to remote education, prohibited gatherings of 10 or more individuals, and adjusted staff and work schedules. The residence halls, the Commons, the Heilman Dining Center are accessible to the students who remain on campus, but all other academic and administrative buildings are accessible only to faculty and staff. We will monitor our operations to ensure continued compliance with the executive order.

What are the plans for summer classes, research, and internships?

For information on summer classes, research, and University-sponsored internships, visit the Interim Policies page.