In response to Gov. Ralph Northam’s statewide “stay-at-home” directive issued Monday, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands has announced that by Friday, April 3, university operations will transition from the “reduced operations” level to the “essential operations” designation, as described in Presidential Policy Memorandum No. 309.

Essential functions and personnel designations will be identified in accordance with the scaling criteria detailed in the memo. This transition will further scale back on-campus operations in response to the COVID-19 emergency. For most students and employees, the transition to essential operations will require only minor adjustments from the current status of operations. Others will see more significant changes.

Sands declared this operational status to be university-wide, affecting all Virginia Tech locations across the commonwealth.

Under this directive, outlined under Presidential Policy Memorandum No. 309, the university will prioritize its resources toward functions and services that are essential to life safety (public safety, health services, and housing and dining for students remaining in university housing), online instruction and academic support services, animal care, essential research, and maintenance of buildings and critical infrastructure.

“This action was taken to minimize the number of employees required to work on site at any university location,” Sands said. “Non-essential functions and services will be suspended. Reducing the number of people living and working on site will better enable the university to monitor and protect the employees and students who must remain on site.

“As Governor Northam indicated when he made his ‘stay-at-home’ order, we all must step up and make the necessary sacrifices to slow this pandemic and flatten the curve,” he said. “I recognize that our decision to further scale back operations will impact students, faculty, staff, and their families, but it is the only reasonable alternative given the opportunity we have to save lives and reduce the burden on our health care system.”

Beginning Friday, essential functions will continue on site as needed and off site where they can be supported through off-site work. On-site locations include university-owned buildings, university-owned land, or university-leased space in any location. Off-site work refers to functions performed remotely, typically from home, using internet, telephone, email, and other remote work technologies.

Essential functions and services are those that must continue in order to ensure the health and safety of the campus community, the operation of essential facilities and infrastructure, and the support of critical technological capabilities and programs, or are those activities that support the future reopening of the university after an emergency. Administrative, operational, and student support services that support essential functions are also deemed essential services.

Under the essential operations mandate, face-to-face interactions for continuing essential services and functions must be minimized. Where possible, those services will be continued through online, phone, email, and other methods that comply with social distancing expectations.

Virginia Tech has been functioning at a “reduced operations” level since March 11, when Sands announced the decision to extend spring break and move all classes online. Because of the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia Tech moved classroom instruction online and ultimately canceled all university events, including commencement.

In order for Virginia Tech to carry out essential functions and services, certain employees must continue their work. These “essential personnel” will be identified as such to distinguish them from employees who will continue to work off site in non-essential functions.

Non-designated employees may continue to work remotely or may be placed on standby. Employees given an “on-call” designation are subject to recall and should be available to work on short notice unless using an approved form of leave, such as annual, sick, family sick, or Public Health Emergency Leave.

At the “essential operations” level, on-site housing and dining services will be prioritized for students who meet the following criteria:

  • Students, including international students, whose health, safety, or access to food and shelter would be at risk unless they are housed on campus.
  • Students who would lose access to health care and mental health care if not housed on campus.
  • Students who can only access online learning through university infrastructure.
  • Students employed in an essential function or the support of an essential function.

As more details become available, we will update the community through the daily email, online, and through our social media channels. The latest updates and answers to the most frequently asked questions on the impact of COVID-19 on our community can be found on our website.