BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — After approximately 1,000 tests on students and staff members over the past week, Virginia Tech reported more than 150 new coronavirus cases among the campus community as of Sunday.
On Monday, Aug. 31 — just two weeks after launching its online COVID-19 dashboard — Virginia Tech announced plans to increase the frequency with which the information on the dashboard is updated in order to reflect the ongoing testing of students and staff members who were symptomatic or had a higher risk of exposure.
According to Virginia Tech’s coroanvirus dashboard, the university has seen a total of 178 positive tests since Aug. 9, which is approximately 1.8% of the 10,053 tests submitted in total. However, between the update on Aug. 23 and the update on Sunday, Aug. 30, school officials say 1,012 students and staff members were tested, with 157 of them — approximately 15.5% — testing positive.
Furthermore, as of Sunday, 48 on-campus students are in campus isolation spaces, which is a noticeable jump from the 11 in isolation as of Aug. 23.
“Now that the fall semester is underway, we will see an increase in the number of positive cases,” said Noelle Bissell, health director of the New River Health District, “Virginia Tech, in partnership with local health and community officials, has been preparing for months for this likelihood and how to manage it effectively.”
The university says the testing plan prioritizes symptomatic individuals, individuals identified through contact tracing, and individuals who work or participate in activities that bring them into contact with larger groups.
In order to be screened for a COVID-19 test based on public health protocols, students are asked to contact Schiffert Health Center.
However, abiding by existing public health guidelines is part of the foundation of Virginia Tech’s COVID-19 response, officials say.
“Wear a mask or face covering at all times, indoors and outdoors; avoid large gatherings and remain physically distant from those around you; and wash your hands frequently,” said Kevin Foust, associate vice president for safety and security at Virginia Tech. “We all know it, but we all must do it because the safety and well-being of our community depends on it.”
“In addition to following public health guidelines, it is imperative that students who have symptoms, or believe that they may have contracted COVID-19, inform university health professionals,” said Frank Shushok, vice president for student affairs. “This is what allows for good health counseling and testing, and contact tracing through the Virginia Department of Health to prevent the spread of the virus. It would be counterproductive for the university to punish students by retroactively investigating how they contracted COVID-19. We will, however, use our conduct process to address dangerous behavior that creates conditions that spreads the virus. As we’ve said from the beginning, our overarching goal is public health, including the health of our students.”
However, Virginia Tech officials say they use additional tools to monitor the availability of on-campus quarantine and isolation spaces; the availability of hospital capacity; and the status of the pandemic around the state, the country, and the world.
Any decisions about proceeding with in-person classes and on-campus activities will depend on the assessment of health officials and Virginia Tech students and staff members’ compliance with campus health and safety protocols, according to the university.
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