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Covid 19 Response in the NRV

On May 1st, leaders from Virginia Tech, Montgomery County, and the town of Blacksburg gathered on Zoom to talk about what's next for our community. Here are some of the highlights.

Virginia Tech Students Will Be Back in Blacksburg This Fall.

During spring break, nearly every university across the state opted to take classes online and send students home, rather than bring them back to dorm situations where social distancing isn't really possible. That meant taking about 4500 sections of courses online in a period of 10 days, but it also exposed some of the limits of remote education.

President Sands mimicked the message by RU President Hemphill and said that they're planning for in-person classes this Fall, but what that will look like isn't clear yet. He said that several different task forces and committees are working on different facets of the issue of how to bring students back on campus safely, but the expected date to announce the plan is June 8th. He did note that "It will not be a shock to the community" because community stakeholders are working with the school on the plan.

"We'll do anything we can to play football at VT"

VT AD Babcock acknowledged that there is a lot of misinformation out there. However, he is serving in the ACC and National Football Oversight Committee. So he is confident he is more well informed than most. Right now they are expecting for players to return to campuses on July 25th and hold practice for 6 weeks before beginning games.

Obviously the safety of the students is paramount, so if that's not possible there are plenty of scenarios to allow pushing the season back to late fall, winter, or even spring. "We'll do it responsibly, but we'll do anything we can to play football at VT," said Babcock.

VT Can Process Tests.

Currently the labs associated with VT can process 100 tests per day if they run 24 hours a day. Right now they are mainly working with the Virginia Department of Health to deal with any local outbreaks, like those at care facilities. The school has asked Richmond for access to federal money to expand the size of the lab so they can run up to 1000 tests per day, which will is part of the planning for students returning to the area. If this expansion is funded, students will be able to be tested with a 24 hour turnaround.

Local Businesses Are Adapting.

Blacksburg Mayor Hager-Smith spoke about the resiliency of the local small businesses. "The merchant community has had to pivot to meet the emerging needs of customers. Businesses have done this very well" said Hager-Smith. Small businesses are coming together to support each other, like sharing information about how to apply successfully for CARES grants. The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce has launched a "Buy Local" campaign to support the area small businesses.

An example Hager-Smith gave of how businesses are adapting is the program that allows you to buy a gift card to New River Art and Fiber, which opened only a few months before Covid-19 hit. The gift cards are then given to Montgomery County public school teachers to buy supplies.

Local Government Is Responding.

Localities are coordinating responses to the economic and health concerns. Dr. Bissell, director of the Montgomery County Department of Health, is heading a task force to look at the health impacts and create a plan for best practices to reopen the economy, in whatever form that will take. NRV Regional Commission Executive Director Kevin Byrd said that they are working in coordination with all of the related local governing bodies, including the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors and town governments and with the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Board to determine what plans for transition will be best suited for our area and how to support the economy with the present form.

Many town governments are also responding and allowing up to 90 days grace period on taxes normally due June 1st. There are no fees or interest associated with a payment being moved. Call your local government office for more information.


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