College communities across the country are being challenged by the spread of COVID-19. Virginia Tech in Blacksburg is no exception. We also know that many in our community are making good decisions to protect the health and safety of others, and it is making a difference. The seven-day average of daily positive cases in Montgomery County has declined by half since it peaked in early September. The coming weeks are critical in determining what the rest of the year will look like for all of us. By doing the right things, we can enjoy open restaurants, open stores, on-campus activities, in-person classes, and fall sports, along with the benefits they bring to our community.

If you’re making the right decisions to protect our community, thank you and keep it up! The preparation and hard work, our balanced science-guided decisions, and the adaptability of tens of thousands of students, faculty, staff, and town residents, have earned us the time we’ve had together this semester. 

If you can do better, now is the time. We must all be vigilant and remain focused on following the public health guidelines that increasing evidence shows are effective. Make sure you enjoy these wonderful fall weekends responsibly. Wear a face covering, remain physically distant, stay in your pods, avoid large gatherings, and wash your hands frequently. In particular, the evidence indicates that your risks of acquiring or spreading COVID-19 will be greatly reduced by wearing masks and avoiding poorly ventilated spaces when among those not in your pod.

We are supporting your efforts by taking important additional steps to control the spread of COVID-19. Virginia Tech has expanded its already robust on-campus testing capacity through Schiffert Health Center and for the community through our local health districts. 

The university has added walk-up testing clinics for asymptomatic students and employees. And we’ve learned that the infections are concentrated among undergraduates living in Blacksburg and on campus. Virginia Tech is adjusting to this finding by adding random mandatory testing of undergraduates to the testing program. These data, along with sentinel surveillance of wastewater, will provide reliable measures of prevalence that will inform decision-making going forward.

Virginia Tech and the Town of Blacksburg are united in protecting the health of our community in compliance with local public health guidelines. We are focused on what we can achieve together, as we share both the sacrifices and the benefits.  Together we can avoid more restrictive actions, protect the vulnerable, and enjoy the incomparable benefits of being a Virginia Tech Hokie and living in this wonderful, vibrant community.

Be committed. Be well.

Tim Sands, President, Virginia Tech

Leslie Hager-Smith, Mayor, Town of Blacksburg

— Local residents who believe they are at risk from an exposure can contact the New River Health District Hotline at 540-267-8240 for guidance and additional information about testing.