Virginia Tech outlines expanded plan for student testing
Virginia Tech’s testing, tracing, and case management plan has been expanded with information on how students living off campus can be tested, as well as details about how the university is enhancing its testing protocols for students to allow for rapid return of results as the pace of testing quickens at the beginning of the fall semester.
The plan, first announced on July 1, calls for students living on campus to be tested for COVID-19 during the move-in time period from Aug. 14-23. A test conducted through a Schiffert Health Center testing clinic is required for on-campus students even if they have secured a negative test result prior to traveling to Blacksburg.
Additionally, prior to returning to the Blacksburg area, all Virginia Tech students are expected to self-quarantine for 14 days, wear face coverings when with others, and follow all public health guidelines in order to lower the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Testing is not required for students living off campus, but off-campus students who are at-risk – those who believe or know they have been exposed to the virus, traveled to Blacksburg from a hot spot, or have symptoms or other indications of exposure – should contact Schiffert Health Center to determine whether they should be tested. Schiffert continues to test students who have been screened via public health guidelines.
All students who are tested are expected to self-quarantine until results are returned. The Dean of Students Office will work with students who test positive to help them isolate as appropriate. Decisions on isolation and quarantining after a positive test will be determined by health professionals with the Virginia Department of Health and Schiffert Health Center. Any student who is unsure whether they should be tested is encouraged to contact Schiffert to determine if a test is warranted.
In keeping with public health guidance, all persons who are traveling and are at-risk should self-quarantine and be tested if they develop symptoms or if they have been exposed to COVID-19.
“The first line of defense against the virus is to wear face coverings, maintain physical distance of 6 feet or greater, wash hands frequently, and isolate if you feel you pose a risk to others or you have symptoms of COVID-19,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “The second level of defense is for the university to implement an effective testing program. We are fortunate to have the unique ability, through our university’s testing capacity and our collaboration with the local health districts, to meet the needs of our community members.”
Vice President of Health Sciences and Technology Michael J. Friedlander and the testing team led by Carla Finkielstein at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC have provided the leadership and laboratory research expertise necessary to scale COVID-19 testing protocols. The institute’s lab procedures will allow for analysis and the rapid return of results as the pace of testing quickens at the beginning of the fall semester.
“We are uniquely qualified to meet the testing needs of campus and our local communities, and to scale our analysis to match the number of incoming samples,” Friedlander said. “Our team invested time, effort, expertise, and financial resources early on, and by April we were already processing samples and returning results. With these proven protocols in place, we’re now able to scale. We’re processing 2,500 samples per week, and we plan to scale up to 5,000 or more per week.”
Provost and Executive Vice President Cyril Clarke said, “Our students, faculty, and staff should know that Virginia Tech has invested considerable time and effort to establish a testing service necessary to monitor and track spread of COVID-19. I applaud our Fralin research faculty for moving so quickly to use their expertise to address a global-scale problem. Our validated testing will continue to serve the entire region.”
Students are encouraged to be tested before traveling to Blacksburg, so that students and their families have an opportunity to evaluate their plans and make adjustments if a positive result is returned. Students should submit their test results to Schiffert as part of their health records.
On-campus students should arrange for a test at the Schiffert Health Center’s testing clinic, which can schedule up to 120 visitors per hour during the move-in period. This clinic will be held in the South End Zone Plaza of Lane Stadium. Tests will begin during the move-in period. On-campus students will be notified of a testing time via the Star Rez site and email. Resident advisors and Corps of Cadets members will be scheduled according to their arrival on campus. Further information will be shared with students via email and on the vt.edu/ready site.
Results of tests conducted by Schiffert and the Schiffert testing clinic should be available within 48 hours. While students await their results, they are expected to limit their movements, practice physical distancing, wear face coverings, and rigorously follow other public-health measures. Students will be notified when their results are completed.
On-campus students who test positive for the virus, or who have been potentially exposed to COVID-19 as determined by health care professionals, will be asked to return to their permanent address and quarantine for 14 days. Students who can’t return to their homes or permanent residences should contact the Dean of Students Office to determine if they can be accommodated in the university’s isolation and quarantine spaces for the 14-day time period. Virginia Tech has a limited number of spaces available for isolation.
If a student who lives in a residence hall with a private or suite-style bathroom with four or fewer people tests positive and is required to isolate, the remaining students may be allowed to quarantine in place with approval from the Dean of Students Office.
Building upon the announcement of the Community Wellness Commitment, President Tim Sands said that members of the university community share a common responsibility to lower the health and safety risks for the broader region.
Blacksburg Mayor Leslie Hager Smith echoed the sentiments of the Wellness Commitment. “We are in this together,” she said. “Collectively, we need to manage a very complex landscape, to welcome students back into the New River Valley, and help the university return to its teaching and research missions—all while living through the limitations of a global pandemic. It is up to us—all of us.”
A town hall to discuss Virginia Tech’s testing plan will be held this Friday from noon to 1 p.m. President Sands will be joined by campus leaders to discuss the university’s plans. The town hall will be livestreamed and made available on the university’s homepage.
More information on the university’s response to COVID-19 and its plans for the fall semester can be found at vt.edu/ready.