‘I don’t remember any other time like this’: New River Valley makes big changes to combat virus

Virginia Department of Health creates task force

Virginia Tech among universities stepping up efforts to fight coronavirus
Virginia Tech among universities stepping up efforts to fight coronavirus

BLACKSBURG, Va. – There are no likely cases of coronavirus in the New River Valley, and organizations in the region are doing what they can to keep it that way.

The Virginia Department of Health created a task force to combat the coronavirus specifically in the New River Valley and Montgomery County. Task force members include doctors, first responders, school representatives and government officials from across the county.

“The purpose of this task force is to keep our residents and communities informed of the best ways to identify risks and limit the spread of infectious diseases,” said Noelle Bissell, the Virginia Department of Health’s New River Valley District director, in a release. “We also will work together to manage any cases of infectious disease should they be confirmed locally.”

Additionally, both Virginia Tech and Radford University have extended their spring break periods and moved classes online indefinitely. Both schools have also banned large crowds and events. Virginia Tech has capped its events at 100 people, while Radford’s limit is only 75 people.

The changes have already led to some immediate ripple effects. The Blacksburg Partnership has canceled its annual Fork and Cork Festival scheduled for May, since it is on Virginia Tech’s property and violates the school’s crowd ban.

Downtown Blacksburg also appeared noticeably empty, especially since Virginia Tech students are still away on spring break.

“I don’t remember any other time like this,” said Chris Kappas, a lifelong Blacksburg resident who once owned The Cellar, a downtown restaurant. “Other than the tragedy we had at Virginia Tech [in 2007], I don’t remember anything as vacant as this. The town seems deserted almost.”

Virginia Tech’s campus is still open, and Kappas is optimistic the town will get through the situation.