Frequently Asked Questions
Updated: Sept. 14, 2021
Face coverings and masks
Are masks required for students, faculty, and staff?
Effective Aug. 10, in an ongoing effort to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, the growing challenge of the delta variant, and a corresponding rise in cases in communities across the country, and to align with the recently updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Virginia Tech will require the proper use of masks by all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, when indoors in designated public areas.
Masks are also required in these locations.
- Riding Blacksburg Transit or other forms of mass transportation;
- Visiting or working at Schiffert Health Center; and
- Virginia Tech Environmental Health & Safety Occupational Health Clinic.
Why are we requiring masks again?
While Virginia Tech has achieved a high level of vaccine adoption, it would be irresponsible to ignore the latest data, science, and public health guidance about the delta variant and the increasing risk it poses to the community. Requiring face coverings in public indoor spaces adds a layer of protection to help us deliver a consistently full and safe experience for fall semester.
How long will masks be required?
After a thorough review of public health data including high transmission rates in the New River Valley and across Virginia, and consistent with the advice provided by local and state public health officials, Virginia Tech will extend its requirement of proper use of masks by all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, when indoors in designated public areas until further notice.
Does this just apply to the Blacksburg campus?
No, this applies to all faculty, staff, and wage employees; students; and visitors at all Virginia Tech owned or leased facilities located in communities with substantial or high community transmission will be required to wear a mask in indoor public spaces.
What is considered an indoor public space?
Indoor public spaces include all lobbies, foyers, atriums, hallways, and elevators in university-owned or leased facilities accessible by the general public; academic spaces used by students for classrooms or teaching laboratories not typically open for access by the general public; and auditorium, arena, theatre, museum, concert hall, or other areas used for a performance or an exhibit of the arts or sciences; and any public meeting room. Library spaces and training rooms are also indoor public spaces.
In addition, all Blacksburg Transit (BT) riders must wear a mask while on the bus at all times.
Indoor public spaces do not include private work places, meaning any office, work area or employment meeting space that is not open to the public in the normal course of business.
Do I need to wear a mask outside?
At this time, masks do not need to be worn in outdoor settings.
Do I have to wear a mask in a class or lab?
Yes. Both instructors and students, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear face coverings in all classrooms and laboratories when classes begin Aug. 23.
Do I have to wear a mask in training rooms?
Yes. Like a classroom or laboratory, training rooms are indoor public spaces. Trainers and training attendees will be required to wear face coverings.
If I live on campus, do I have to wear a mask in my residence hall?
No, vaccinated students are not required to wear face coverings in their residence halls at this time, although all students and guests should wear them during move-in. Unvaccinated students are required to wear face coverings whenever they leave their rooms. All students must wear them in dining facilities when not eating or drinking, however.
Do I have to wear a mask at indoor public events hosted or sponsored by Virginia Tech?
Yes, masks are required at indoor events, regardless of vaccination stuatus.
Do I have to wear a mask at outdoor public events hosted or sponsored by Virginia Tech?
Masks are not required for public outdoor events, but they are encouraged. The university may designate specific areas where masks will be required in outdoor settings or in places that are partially covered. All attendees are encouraged to be vaccinated.
Are masks required for private, invitation-only events?
Masks are required for all indoor private events. Event hosts may require masks for outdoor private events.
Can I use my own face covering?
Yes, face coverings may be reusable or homemade cloth masks, dust masks, or surgical masks. Coverings that fit close to the face with no loose edges are the safest choice to use in labs/research spaces, shops, and similar spaces. Homemade and cloth face coverings should have several layers of fabric for added filtration.
As an employee, do I need to wear a mask at work?
Employees must wear a mask at work when in an indoor public space. See above for more information on indoor public spaces.
Employees do not need to wear a mask in private work places, meaning any office, work area or employment meeting space that is not open to the public in the normal course of business.
Individuals who are not vaccinated are required to wear a mask in all indoor spaces other than a private office or one’s own residence hall room.
I filed for an exemption and will not be getting a vaccine. Do I need to wear a mask?
Yes. Individuals who receive a vaccine exemption or not fully vaccinated must wear a face mask in Virginia Tech spaces.
Do I need to wear a mask at my desk if I'm an employee?
This mask requirement does not apply to private workplaces, such as any office, work area, or employment meeting space that is not open to the public in the normal course of business.
Virginia Tech will permit unit supervisors and their teams to determine mask requirements based on unique work-related circumstances. In such cases, team members should discuss specific circumstances under the guidance of their supervisor or unit head.
Will face coverings be provided for employees?
All persons must obtain a type of face covering/mask that provides a good, comfortable fit before they return to campus. Some departments may provide face covering/mask for employees, but such provision could be made difficult due to shortages. Because cloth face masks are washable, reusable and inexpensive to make, they are recommended.
What about face shields?
Instructors will be required to wear face masks. Face shields are not a viable alternative because plexiglass only diverts aerosols, whereas face masks remove aerosols. Plexiglass is only useful for brief, face-to-face interactions.
Academic units are encouraged to review their audio technology resources and do their best to provide microphones and audio systems that can amplify instructors’ voices.
In the case of hearing-impaired students, these should be addressed as special cases.
In most of these cases, clear masks will provide the best solution. In working through these cases, instructors are encouraged to seek assistance from Services for Students with Disabilities to identify a solution.
Faculty should consult with their department heads on any extenuating circumstances. If additional are then needed, questions can be directed to the University Registrar.
I have additional questions around face coverings.
View Environmental Health & Safety’s (EHS) guidelines on face coverings, including how to care for your face covering, and more. Also included in the EHS guidelines is information about face coverings in research settings and labs and clarification around respirators/N95 masks. Face coverings may be reusable or homemade cloth masks, dust masks, or surgical masks.
Employees who have concerns about the mask mandate should speak with their supervisor or college or department HR representative.
How many students have been disenrolled for not meeting the COVID-19 vaccine requirement?
Of the approximately 37,000 students enrolled at Virginia Tech, 134 students were not in compliance with the COVID-19 vaccination requirement, meaning that they did not submit vaccination documentation or receive a medical or religious exemption. These students have been disenrolled. The university does not know whether any of these students were not planning to return for reasons unrelated to the COVID-19 vaccine requirement.
Do I have to be vaccinated to attend a public event at Virginia Tech, either indoors or outdoors?
Virginia Tech students and employees are required to be vaccinated in accordance with Presidential Policy Memorandum 317, and we encourage everyone to be vaccinated. Vaccinations are not required to attend public events.
Are vaccinations required to attend private, invitation-only events at Virginia Tech?
Hosts of private, invitation-only events may require attendees to be vaccinated in order to attend indoor or outdoor private events. Individuals may be asked to confirm their own vaccination status by an event host.
Are special guests or invited speakers required to be vaccinated to speak at events?
Masks are required and hosts can require that speakers are vaccinated. Individual attestation of vaccination status will be accepted. The hosts can rescind the invitation if the invited guest is not vaccinated. Any contracts with speakers must address the need to be vaccinated if it is going to be a participation requirement.
If I’m a fully vaccinated employee, do I need to continue filling out the Hokie Health ✔️ self-assessment before coming to work?
Employees that are fully vaccinated do not need to complete the daily Hokie Health ✔️ self-assessment. However, they should pay attention to their health and stay home if they feel sick. Employees that are unvaccinated should continue to complete the Hokie Health ✔️ self-assessment, wear a mask, monitor for symptoms, and stay home if they feel sick.
Who is required to be tested?
All students in Blacksburg, Roanoke, and the greater Washington, D.C. metro area and employees (including full and part-time faculty, staff, and wage employees) across all Virginia Tech locations, are required to be vaccinated or to seek an vaccination exemption based on a medical condition or sincerely held religious belief. Students and employees who receive an exemption will be required to participate in the university's surveillance testing program. Initial frequency of testing will be, at minimum, once a week. Employees who work fully remotely will be excluded from testing if they have a Flexible Work Arrangement Agreement or Change of Duty Station Request approved and on file.
As announced on Aug. 19, 2021, the deadline for employees to either receive the vaccine and report their vaccination information or file for a vaccine exemption is Oct. 1, 2021. Until then, unvaccinated employees will be required to participate in the university's surveillance testing program.
How do I get tested?
Students will receive an email that will direct them to sign up for a testing time and will provide them with available locations.
Employees will receive an email directing them to sign up for a testing date and provide them with available locations. Employees may go to the testing location any time on the day they scheduled their test.
Where will students go to get tested?
The email notification a student receives will direct them to the testing locations.
How often can I expect to be tested?
Initial frequency of testing will be, at minimum, once a week. The frequency of testing will be reevaluated as testing results are evaluated and additional data related to the variants becomes available.
Will there be exemptions allowed for testing?
Virginia Tech will not grant exemptions to testing for the Fall of 2021. Students and employees in Blacksburg, Roanoke, and the greater Washington, D.C. metro area will perform a self-test via either a nasal swab or a non-evasive saliva test. Employees who are not based near one of the main three campuses will complete a mailed self-test kit with a nasal swab. If an employee cannot complete a nasal swab test, contact Virginia Tech's office of ADA and Accessibility Services for an accomodation to receive a saliva kit. ADA approval must be in place to receive the mailed saliva kit.
Will there be isolation and quarantine spaces on campus in the fall?
For the 2021-22 academic year, Virginia Tech will not operate a COVID-19 quarantine and isolation program. It is important for students to work with families to develop an advance plan should they become infected with COVID-19. As with any communicable disease, the Schiffert Health Center and the Dean of Students Office will work closely with students to implement their plan — or discern alternative solutions as needed.
However, we will have limited isolation and quarantine space to accommodate students who cannot return to their primary residence.
Where will employees test?
Blacksburg employees will test at one of the following locations. Employees will be able to pick the location when they schedule their test. See a map of Blacksburg testing locations.
Roanoke employees will test at 4 Riverside Circle, Tuesday, noon - 1:30 p.m.
Washington D.C. metro area employees will test at one of the following locations:
- Falls Church, 7054 Haycock Rd, Falls Church, VA 22043
Wednesday, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
- Arlington, 900 Glebe Rd, Arlington, VA 22203
Thursday, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Employees not located near one of these main campus will receive a test kit in the mail each week. The test will need to be completed and sent back for analysis.
Do I need to pay to park for Blacksburg campus testing?
Blacksburg campus testing sites will require a valid parking permit. If a student or employee only needs to park for a short amount of time, the ParkMobile app provides an on-demand option to purchase parking. For more information, visit the Transportation Services site.