Community conversation highlights navigating pandemic, silver lining in Blacksburg

Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 10:38 PM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - In Blacksburg, town leadership and Virginia Tech officials came together to talk about how everyone has been navigating through the pandemic.

Montgomery County has seen about 2,400 cases. Virginia Tech is reporting 1,265 total positive cases with 104 in the last week.

From managing a never-ending emergency to finding new ways to be sustainable, Blacksburg has changed in unimaginable ways since March.

“Everyone has done a great job of getting us this far,” said Deputy Town Manager Steve Ross, who started the conversation.

At the second of a special Town Gown series on navigating the challenges and opportunities of a public health emergency together, everyone on Thursday’s call got a chance to share their own experiences.

“The pandemic is just never-ending, so the four cycles of emergency management planning, mitigation, response and recovery typically happen in order, but over the last nine months they’ve just been happening all at the same time,” said Mike Mulhare from Virginia Tech Emergency Management.

One thing many agreed on is although the vicious cycle seems to never end, seeing the community work together is what makes the difference. The NRV has seen a lot of firsts.

“Somebody has to go first, somebody has to go to school, somebody has to go back to work,” said Virginia Tech Police Chief William “Mac” Babb III. “We have to make all of the systems that people rely on reliable even in a pandemic.”

One of those systems is the Blacksburg Transit public transportation in town.

“We had to get really creative and really trust each other and trust experts, and admit when we don’t have all the information and listen to the experts because we’re the experts on transit but we’re not the experts on other things,” said Lincoln Sklar from Blacksburg Transit.

The town is leaning toward a more sustainable future, doing more things online instead of driving an hour for a meeting that could be done virtually.

“I think as we come out of the pandemic, I think we’ll see some of that,” said Assistant to the Town Manager Matt Hanratty. “We’ll see a hybrid where we’ll certainly go back to more in-person, but it will be a hybrid where we can be a little bit more efficient with our time.”

Officials said collaboration and resiliency are key to continue navigating through COVID-19.

“It just reminds us that we really are in this together and it takes all of us to pull together and learn from one another,” said VP for Student Affairs Frank Shushok, Jr.

From an emergency management standpoint, Mulhare said typically we know when the emergency will end. This time is different. Mulhare said that’s why having these conversations and staying connected is so important right now.

Everyone is invited to these community Zoom meetings. The last one in this series is on Thursday, Nov. 19.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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