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University and public health guidelines

The Virginia Tech community continues to be vigilant in adhering to a range of public health guidelines and university guidelines to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Here’s a quick primer: Remember the three Cs and the M.

  • Avoid Close contact situations. Maintain distance from other people. Six feet doesn’t mark a magic barrier, but the particles do dilute with distance.
  • Avoid Crowds. Being in a large crowd will increase the chance that you will be around someone infected with the virus and that the virus will spread to others.
  • Avoid Closed, poorly ventilated spaces. Imagine a cigarette smoker being in the same space as you. Will you take in any smoke?
  • Wear Masks.

Masks

Everyone on a Virginia Tech campus or facility (students, faculty, staff, visitors, and others) is required to properly wear a face covering or mask. Make sure it fully covers the mouth and nose at all times.

Indoors

  • Wear a face covering or mask, unless in a secluded location such as a personal office space or a residence hall room with the door closed. If working or studying in an open-air cubicle, wear a face covering.
    • The exception would be those with a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a face covering.
    • Employees who are unable to wear a face covering or face shield should be referred to the university’s ADA and Accessibility Services office.
  • Wear a face shield or a face covering with clear space over the mouth (both are available for order by colleges and departments through Virginia Tech Procurement) in the following instances:
    • Speaking with those who are hard of hearing.
    • Instructors lecturing in situations where wearing a mask would make them inaudible.
    • Review the Environmental Health and Safety office’s guidance on face coverings and respirators.

Outdoors

Wear a face covering or mask. Independent outdoor exercise is an exception, but you can expect that you will encounter someone, and you need to be prepared to put a mask on.

Exceptions relating to chronic health conditions are still applicable.

How many layers should my face covering have?

When choosing a face covering, look at how well it fits, how well it filters the air, and how many layers it has. According to CDC guidance, you should always ensure that your face covering fits snugly against your face, and you should use a face covering with multiple layers to keep your respiratory droplets in and others’ droplets out.

Most cloth face coverings already have multiple layers built into their design. Use multi-layer face coverings with nose wires and mask braces to help ensure a snug fit. Also consider using the knot and tuck method to secure your face covering. If wearing a single-layer mask such as a disposable mask, consider wearing a second face covering to push the edges of the inner mask against your face.

Students

Students must wear a face covering or mask and maintain 6-foot physical distancing in all settings, including residence hall common spaces, such as hallways, study lounges, and stairwells. Individuals should remove themselves from situations where this is not possible.

While in a residence hall room alone, or with other members of their pod, or independent outdoor exercise, students are not required to wear a face covering, but they must be prepared to put one on when they encounter others.

Students with specific PPE needs or questions may reach out to Hokie Wellness by emailing hokiewellness@vt.edu or calling (540) 231-2233.

Employees

Face coverings/masks are to be worn at all times. We encourage supervisors to connect with their employees, as needed, to discuss individual concerns or questions. For the health and safety of the community, those who do not wear face coverings may face disciplinary action.

Instructors

The university has provided face shields for instructors to wear, given that face coverings could make the instructors inaudible to students.

We encourage instructors to connect with their students, as needed, to continue to discuss individual circumstances. For the health and safety of the community, those who do not wear face coverings may face disciplinary action.

Additionally, the provost’s office has outlined specific guidelines for classroom conduct, including the use of face coverings. 

Visitors

Campus visitors will need to follow the same university guidelines and public health guidelines that students and employees follow. The provost’s office has provided more detailed guidance for visitors.

Research areas, labs

Face coverings (or respiratory protection if needed for a specific hazard) must be worn at all times while in labs/research areas and other spaces.

Anyone with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask is not recommended by their medical provider or anyone who has trouble breathing is exempted, but these individuals should wear a face shield instead.

Review guidelines from the Environmental Health and Safety office (EHS) on the use of face coverings, masks, and respirators.

If you or a team member require a respirator as part of your job and have not been previously cleared by EHS to wear one, please contact EHS at ehsmedserv@vt.edu. If you need PPE that is required for specific research activities, contact the Institutional Biosafety Committee Program director (ibc@vt.edu).

Mask availability

We encourage you to bring your own mask to campus. Additionally, disposable surgical masks are available at four pickup points across the Blacksburg campus. All members of the university community who forget or lose a mask, or feel like they need a replacement for the day, can pick one up at:

  • Student Services Building, at the Hokie Passport Services lobby area.
  • Squires Student Center, at the welcome desk.
  • Virginia Tech Police Department, at the security center through the double doors; officers will also keep extra masks in their cruisers.
  • North End Center, at the lobby outside the Procurement suite.

Department orders

Departments may order masks, face coverings, hand sanitizer, and other PPE and supplies through Virginia Tech's Procurement Department. Contact procurement@vt.edu for the latest information.

Physical distancing

Physical distancing is an important component in helping to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Stay at least 6 feet away from others in both indoor and outdoor settings. 

In the workplace and other Virginia Tech settings, the university will continue to help foster physical distancing in such ways as:

  • access control to unused spaces
  • furniture arrangements to encourage physical distancing
  • assigned seating
  • maintaining 6 feet of separation between occupants
  • signs indicating entryways and exit-ways
  • virtual meeting options
  • virtual access to meetings, conferences, and other in-person gatherings, and
  • metering the number of occupants at facilities.

Gathering sizes

In order to continue to manage the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia Tech will restrict outdoor gatherings to 50 people, and indoor gatherings on campus continue to be limited to 10 people. The Town of Blacksburg will continue to restrict all gatherings to no more than 50 people either indoors and outdoors.

The COVID-19 Events Working Group has developed guidance for student programming and university-sanctioned events in an effort to balance the Virginia Tech student experience with mitigation of COVID-19.  

The restrictions on gathering sizes reflect the seriousness with which we need to adhere to public health guidelines and protect those around us, particularly the most vulnerable. We are asking employees and students to take personal responsibility in helping to keep the public safe.

Pods

Pods are small groups of students — 10 or less — who are able to interact with each other more closely and in a more relaxed, unmasked environment. On- and off-campus students can register their pod with the university and tap into programming specifically engineered for small groups of people committed to each other’s health.

Those relaxed guidelines include conditions in which face coverings can be removed, social distancing guidelines eased, and gathering sizes increased during campus activities and in residence halls.

The enhanced pod system will allow various areas within Virginia Tech Student Affairs to expand their offerings and even tailor programs to the pod setup while adhering to current guidelines from the governor. Among the benefits, this will allow recreational sports, movie nights, and even simply sitting in a lounge to operate in ways more similar to nonpandemic school years.

Travel

International travel: After returning from international travel, Virginia Tech requires that you get tested 3-5 days after your trip, reduce non-essential activities, and do not return to campus for 7 days after your return, even if you test negative for COVID-19. If you are not able to get tested after international travel, stay home for 10 days after travel before returning to campus. Please refer to the latest CDC international travel guidelines.

Domestic travel: VDH advises Virginians to avoid all non-essential travel. There are currently no requirements in place for quarantining after domestic travel. Continue to wear a face covering, maintain physical distancing, practice good hygiene, and monitor for symptoms. Refer to the VDH travel site for the latest information.

Mental Health and Well-being

Whether you’re on campus or at home, your mental health and well-being is our top priority. Hokie Wellness continues to maintain virtual offerings that all students, faculty, and staff can access: 

Students

Employees

Personal hygiene

What you can do to stop the spread of viruses like coronavirus and the flu:

  • Cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Wash your hands often and for 20 seconds at a time.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Stay home if you are sick.

Get a flu shot (find the latest resources).

Community Wellness Commitment

Be Committed. Be Well. image of three people wearing masks as part of the Community Wellness Commitment

The Community Wellness Commitment outlines 10 tenets, based on well-known public health guidelines, that community members can personally adopt. It remains a driving principle in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

In partnership with a range of local health, public safety, education, and government agencies, Virginia Tech collaborated with the New River Valley Public Health Task Force to develop the commitment.

Hokie Ready and COVIDWISE apps

Download the Hokie Ready app for emergency alerts and resources, along with Hokie Health ✔️, the COVID-19 screening tool for employees and students that is located within the app.

In an effort to ensure a safe campus environment for everyone, all students and employees are expected to:

Download the Hokie Ready app for Android or Apple devices.

Complete the Hokie Health ✔️survey each day before coming to any Virginia Tech campus location.*

Explore the range of safety features within the app, including contact information for emergencies, a button for reporting police tips, and a friend walk that allows users to send their locations to friends and loved ones so that they can monitor their walk to a specific destination safely.

Click here for more information and frequently asked questions on the Hokie Ready app and the Hokie Health screening survey.

*Those who do not have a smartphone can complete the survey online or utilize the paper resource, specifically for students and for faculty, staff, and wage employees. There also is a paper resource for those who contract with the university for goods and services.

The COVIDWISE app

Another important resource is COVIDWISE, the commonwealth's official COVID-19 exposure notification mobile app. The app will notify you if you've likely been exposed to another app user who shared a positive COVID-19 test result. Knowing the exposure history allows you to self-quarantine effectively, seek timely medical attention, and reduce potential exposure risk to your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.

Research operations

In the spring semester, Virginia Tech is continuing its research in a manner that recognizes the importance of safety, transitions back to an in-person student-learning experience, and continues to ramp up research programs.

  • We are operating under the university’s modified operations status.
  • Most labs can/will be opened. Undergraduate and graduate students working on sponsored research or course credit may return to established or new research projects.
  • Student volunteer research activity in labs is not advised, due to lab space and physical distancing guidelines.
  • Colleges and institutes may add additional requirements in their areas.
  • Allowable research activities require the approval of deans, vice presidents, or institute directors or their designee(s).

The COVID-19 Research and Continuity Guidance microsite contains various resources for researchers, including Phase Three: Reopening Guidance.

Facilities

Virginia Tech is committed to maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness across all of its campus facilities. In conjunction with physical distancing and personal hygiene strategies, to minimize spread and health risks for the most vulnerable populations, the university employs a consistent, thorough, and deliberate cleaning process. 

Learn more about enhanced cleaning procedures, the installation of new hand-sanitizer stations, and more. Please also refer to these university guidelines.

Parking and transportation

Find the latest information about parking and transportation, including parking on the Blacksburg campus, alternative transportation, and more.

All university community members must display a permit or pay an hourly or daily fee to park on the Blacksburg campus. Learn more about all of your parking options.

The Blacksburg Transit (BT) website also highlights the latest schedule updates.