MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia University students will face penalties and discipline if they fail to get tested for the coronavirus and complete a COVID-19 education course before returning to campus next month, the university said Tuesday.
WVU began sending registration emails Monday to students on the Morgantown campus, with information on getting the free coronavirus tests, starting Monday at several locations. Faculty, staff and students at the Beckley and Keyser campuses will receive similar emails on Aug. 3, Dean of Students Corey Farris said in a letter to students.
All students and employees must be tested, and students must also complete a virus education course prior to returning to campus, Farris said. Students who fail to do so will be fined $250 and referred to the Office of Student Conduct, the letter said.
The wearing of masks or face coverings will be required on campus. Students who fail to comply face discipline, which can include a written warning, removal from class, probation, suspension or expulsion, the letter said.
The letter doesn't specify what will happen with students who test positive for infection before or during the school year. A separate email sent by WVU earlier this month said anyone with a positive test must notify the university, which will initiate contact tracing and "work with students on procedures for isolation."
"This academic year will be different from what you — and all of our faculty and staff — have previously experienced," Farris wrote. "Please be patient with us and your fellow students as we navigate these new processes together."
The fall semester begins Aug. 19. Students must schedule move-in slots for residence halls from Aug. 8 through 15.
The letter noted that the Personal Rapid Transit shuttle system in Morgantown will not be in service for the fall semester. Instead, additional buses will be available for campus transportation.
WVU plans to hold a student webinar Thursday to provide information and answer questions about the return to campus.
The university is discouraging personal travel to places other than their homes and to campus. WVU said anyone from the campus community who travels domestically outside of West Virginia during the school year must self-quarantine for five days.
WVU's letter was released the same day as Gov. Jim Justice held a virtual meeting with all 27 of the state's college and university presidents to discuss fall reopening plans.
Justice renewed his call for students coming from out-of-state to be tested for the virus upon their return.
"What everyone wants to achieve, myself included, is to bring our kids back to our colleges and our universities safely, so they will be able to continue their education while also protecting their communities, teachers, faculty, and everyone around them at our institutions," Justice said in a statement. "There's a way to do it and we all need to try to find the safest and best way possible to pull it off."
West Virginia has reported 5,200 positive virus cases and at least 101 deaths. The number of confirmed cases has doubled in the past month.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.