Radford’s president talks virus impact on campus in exclusive interview

Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 11:20 PM EDT
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RADFORD, Va. (WDBJ) - Radford University is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases as the semester continues.

Monday, President Dr. Brian Hemphill gave WDBJ7 an exclusive sit-down interview to talk about the school’s response for the first time since students returned to campus.

We saw a pretty dramatic decrease in cases last week when Radford University gave its weekly coronavirus update. The president said it will be more of the same this week when the dashboard is updated Tuesday.

“Things are going pretty well for us right now,” Hemphill said.

After reporting 357 positive cases since Aug. 18, President Hemphill said things are really starting to slow down. This is something the school and health department have repeatedly said would happen after students transitioned back.

Other schools locally and nationally have decided to pull the plug and go all virtual after a hundred or so cases. Hemphill said Radford decided to stick with the plan and to keep working closely with the New River Health District.

“There’s always a point as a leader you have to have those moments of reflection where you ask yourself those tough questions,” he said. “You cannot panic in the midst of the first storm you hit, you have to stay the course and if you have good people and experts giving you guidance, you can weather the storm.”

The president said continual guidance from the health department and staff made him feel confident the daily case numbers would begin to decline with time.

“We feel good about where we are and feel pretty confident that we can complete the semester,” Hemphill said.

Friday, the school let people without symptoms volunteer to get tested. The university reports of those 279 tested, no positives came back. Last time they did this surveillance testing Aug. 28, 24 of 492 were positive.

“We’re going to continue to update that dashboard and provide that transparency because it’s important for us, it’s important for everyone who is connected to the Highlander family,” he said.

Hemphill said the school is committed to weekly updates of those numbers.

“For us it’s being able to look at the data, understand what we have and really be able to put it out there in a way for everyone and it really takes time if you’re going to do it correctly,” the president said.

He said we can expect more surveillance testing as the semester continues. Hemphill also anticipates focused testing on students in clinicals and athletes.

The president said at most, the school has filled 40 of its 54 quarantine beds on campus.

“We would expand our quarantine housing if the need presented itself, but we don’t find ourselves in a place where we need to do that at this particular stage,” he said.

Hemphill said he’s starting to have conversations about what the spring semester and commencement will look like and will give us an update soon.

“Thank you for being caring Highlanders who really focused on thinking about the health of those around them,” he said. “That’s something that we greatly value and appreciate.”

For questions you might have about Radford University’s response to COVID-19, you’re encouraged to email and can expect a response within 24 hours.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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