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Blacksburg votes to keep coronavirus restrictions, not match governor’s announcement

Ordinance set to expire May 16, which is the last day of VT grad activities

Blacksburg voted to keep its gathering restrictions at 50 people.
Blacksburg voted to keep its gathering restrictions at 50 people.

On Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that coronavirus-related restrictions across the state could be rolled back — but leaders in Blacksburg said not so fast.

, Blacksburg Town Council voted to keep the town’s current ordinance in place during its meeting on Tuesday night, which limits both indoor and outdoor gatherings to 50 people. The ordinance is set to expire on May 16, which is the last day for Virginia Tech graduation activities.

“Until they go home in May, nothing will change,” said councilmember Jerry Ford, Jr. during the meeting. “I think we stay more stringent, and then we can track with the governor after that.”

Northam announced earlier on Tuesday that social gatherings will now be allowed to have up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, starting on April 1. Indoor entertainment venues will also be able to operate at 30% capacity with up to 500 people.

“For our town, being a college town, we know our situation is different,” said councilmember Lauren Colliver during Tuesday’s meeting. “Our student population is not going to be vaccinated by next Thursday. It’s not going to happen.”

In a separate decision before town council’s meeting, Virginia Tech cancelled the football team’s spring game.

Virginia Tech alum Dean Downes said he understands why town leaders are cautious, but hopes they leave the door open for loosened restrictions if circumstances improve soon.

“When we see something happening somewhere else in the world, we need to say, ‘That might happen here again,’” Downes said. “We need people to go out and spend money. That’s how everyone survives. We need to keep moving forward.”

Current Virginia Tech student Kelly Correa-Schmick is optimistic because she believes her classmates do respect social distancing guidelines.

“Everybody has been really great about that. It’s kind of a relief,” Correa-Schmick said. “I’m so excited to get to experience Blacksburg the way it normally is. Hopefully it happens while I’m still a student at Tech.”

The governor also previously announced tentative plans for outdoor graduations, which allow up to 5,000 people at outdoor ceremonies. Blacksburg’s measures would not affect any plans for Virginia Tech’s graduation ceremonies.

About the Authors:

Samantha Smith joined WSLS 10’s award-winning digital team as a digital content producer in July 2018.