BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech students have returned to Blacksburg, and local leaders are anticipating a spike in COVID-19 cases to begin the semester.
Virginia Tech president Tim Sands, New River Health District director Dr. Noelle Bissell, and Blacksburg mayor Leslie Hager-Smith discussed the situation in an online town hall Thursday morning.
Bissell said she expects a short-term increase in COVID-19 cases on Virginia Tech’s campus, similar to what unfolded at Radford University.
“We have people coming into more dense living settings and some more socialization, so it’s not at all unexpected,” Bissell said. “Cases will start to go up, and they went up significantly, but at Radford they are starting to trail off just as significantly.”
According to Virginia Tech’s tracker, 178 students and faculty have tested positive for COVID-19. More than 10,000 have been tested.
“Everything that Radford saw a week ago, we’re seeing now,” said Sands. “Every move they made a week ago, we’re doing now.”
Bissell said Virginia Tech will likely experience a similar situation to Radford. However, she believes other Blacksburg residents will not be at high risk if the number of cases starts to climb.
“What we are seeing overwhelmingly in Radford and in Virginia Tech is the students keep it to themselves and the community cases are separate,” Bissell said.
Because of that, Sands said Virginia Tech is unlikely to go back to an all-virtual model of education.
“There’s no question it’s all hands on deck to push this down and get through the opening few weeks, but I am encouraged,” Sands remarked.
Sands said students have been adhering to social distancing guidelines and expects them to continue doing so.
“They’re wearing masks. They’re distancing. They’re out and about,” Sands said. “You can tell there’s a lot of energy about being back on campus.”
You can watch the full Virginia Tech town hall below: