Virginia Tech expands student testing plan, cases to be identified by county

Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 10:39 PM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Virginia Tech has announced its plans to expand student testing as they are starting to make their way back to school.

Students are being asked to self-quarantine 14 days before going back to Blacksburg and those who live on campus will also be required to take a COVID-19 test. If that test can be taken before coming back, it is encouraged by the school.

“Testing is good but we have to make sure we don’t over-burden the testing capacity so that results can come quickly so that they can do the most benefit,” said university spokesman Mark Owczarski.

That’s why students who live off campus are not required to get the test, but they are encouraged to if they can at home.

Between Aug. 14 and 23, about 9,100 students living on campus will arrive by appointment to their dorms. The school said there will be about 1,500 additional beds on campus for students who may need to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus.

“We’re developing our protocols in real time because the situation’s changing,” Owczarski said. “A lot of planning is going into it, but we also recognize that adjustments are going to need to be made as we go and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Right now, the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at Virginia Tech Carilion in Roanoke has the capacity to process about 2,500 tests per week, according to school leaders. They are still working to increase that to 5,000 before the students start coming back.

“There will be multiple opportunities for all of our students to receive that test if they can’t get it at home, they can get it once they arrive,” Owczarski said.

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, the school said the Dean of Students Office will work on a case-by-case basis, just like they would if someone had a death in the family or got in a car accident, as to who all gets informed.

“When we are aware, and we may or may not be aware of all of the cases, but if we are aware we share that information which is consistent with Virginia law,” Owczarski said. “It’s the Virginia Department of Health’s protocols that we follow.”

This means cases will only be reported to the health department, counting toward Montgomery County totals. They will not single out Virginia Tech.

School leaders encourage everyone to commit to wellness in the community.

“We’re all in this together and what we need to do is to make a commitment to do those things that we must do as a community to stay well,” Owczarski said.

President Tim Sands will be holding a town hall discussion on Friday at noon to discuss the changes and expectations of students as they begin to return.

You can also get more information on Virginia Tech’s website.

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