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Blacksburg, Virginia Tech leaders reflect on pandemic response

Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 10:47 PM EST
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Thursday, Blacksburg and Virginia Tech leaders came together to reflect on the last few months of the journey through the pandemic. It was the final meeting of three focusing on navigating the challenges and opportunities of the pandemic.

Starting with the COVID-19 data for the New River Valley, community leaders looked at how we got here.

“We’ve had some really tough incidents here which have really trained us how to come together in a time of crisis,” said Blacksburg Police Chief Anthony Wilson.

Those tough times made everyone come together quickly to roll out community testing before the first cases set in.

“This is just another example of Blacksburg pulling together, our region pulling together to take on a really monumental task and come through it really well to this point. It’s a lot to be proud of,” said Blacksburg Deputy Town Manager Steve Ross.

For a long time, a lot of fear loomed with the return of students. Although cases did jump as expected, their spread to the community was minimal.

“Students are a big part of our community and they’ve stepped up and done what they needed to do and in many ways I think our students have modeled for others how to take this seriously and how to model public health in the name of the greater good,” said VP of Student Affairs Dr. Frank Shushok, Jr.

Consistent messaging and fostering relationships have held this community strong, and leaders say it needs to stay that way.

“We all feel like we need to get away, we need a break, so we just really need to remain vigilant,” said New River Health District Director Dr. Noelle Bissell. “COVID’s not going to go away.”

That leaves students with a final task as they prepare to head home for the holidays.

“Think of a couple of things that you can do for yourself to take care of yourself because that’s going to give you the stamina to keep going,” Shushok said.

“I do want to try and challenge everyone to be on that positive side,” Bissell said. “Instead of that natural inclination to think of all of the reasons why this really is a horrible time, to think about how we’re responding to it and how we can give back in a positive way.”

The Town Gown series will return in February.

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