Board of Visitors holds virtual meeting to address COVID-19 response

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7)— The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors held a virtual meeting to discuss all the big university changes that have been made in the past few weeks to address COVID-19 concerns.

Although a lot of changes have been made in such a short amount of time, they’re still working out the kinks.

“We did not anticipate a pandemic like COVID-19, but we did begin to build institutional preparedness for the many extremes of impact that characterize this pandemic,” said President Tim Sands. “And we expect that it is only a matter of days before COVID-19 is confirmed among the community in Blacksburg.”

After putting out a survey, they’ve determined about 900 students have returned to campus housing, and about 11,000 are living in off-campus housing, including grad students.

Board members have determined three categories of operations during a crisis. Reduced Operations, Essential Operations and Campus Closure. Right now they’re operating at the essential level and do not anticipate having to close the campus.

“We recognize these three categories of operation when there is a crisis like the current crisis at work,” said Senior Vice President Dr. Dwayne Pinkney.

But that idea of what’s essential is still confusing to students.

“There are labs where I know students are still there in full force, the whole research enterprise is going on even though they’re doing research that could wait, whereas the lab right beside of them has sent all of their students home,” said graduate student Ryan King. “It’s creating a lot of animosity among graduate students.”
The school said in an email response to WDBJ7 that research is anything that can’t be interrupted or stopped, otherwise it would be ruined.

“We’ll start making sure that our messaging is consistent,” Sands said.

The school said a lot of hands-on labs have been moved online and it has been challenging. Grad assistants are working with faculty to move their operations to the web.

Students addressed issues about paying activity and recreation fees for things that don’t exist on campus. The school said they are still reviewing how to address these questions, but they had to prioritize safety and essential services ahead of that. They will continue to work on solutions.

Sands mentioned during the meeting that virologists are working on vaccines, and engineers are using their expertise in 3-D printing to address PPE challenges. WDBJ7 asked for more information on what Virginia Tech is doing to create a vaccine to combat COVID-19. We will let you know when more information is available.

Virginia Tech has a portion of its website dedicated to questions about coronavirus. You can learn more here: https://vt.edu/covid-19/home.html.

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