To the Virginia Tech community,

I write today to update you on our shared achievements in addressing the pandemic and to announce changes that are made possible by that progress.

Status of COVID-19 on the Blacksburg campus and in the community: The incidence of SARS CoV-2 cases has diminished on campus and in our community. The seven-day average of daily positive tests for Virginia Tech employees and students on the Blacksburg campus has been below five cases per day since April 2 and below three since mid-April. The seven-day average of positivity (the number of positive tests divided by the total number of tests) has been below 1 percent since early April and about 0.5 percent since mid-April. The number of students in on-campus quarantine and isolation has been about 10 for the past week, down from a peak of 200 in late February. In Montgomery County, Virginia, the seven-day average incidence continues to drop. The pandemic is not over locally, but the marked progress in these key indicators is a testament to your adherence to public health guidelines and perhaps an early indicator of the impact of vaccinations.

Face coverings: Given the reduced prevalence of COVID-19 in our campus community along with the science that increasingly indicates that outdoor transmission is rare, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health guidance, we are now relaxing the face-covering requirement outdoors on campus unless you cannot distance yourself 6 feet from others who are not in your pod. Face coverings are still required indoors on campus and outdoors in downtown Blacksburg where distancing on sidewalks is difficult.

Mandatory random prevalence testing and high-contact employee surveillance testing: Because prevalence rates are now sufficiently low, we are exempting those students and employees who have received at least one vaccination dose from prevalence and surveillance testing, with the exception of those bound by external requirements (e.g., the ACC). To receive an exemption, please work with the testing team to register your vaccination status. You may also be asked to show your CDC vaccination card.

Please note that these changes in guidelines pertain to the remainder of the spring semester and the summer and may be reversed or altered should conditions change. We will announce guidelines for the fall later this summer.

Vaccine requirement?: Many members of our Virginia Tech community have asked if vaccinations will be required for students or employees in the fall. Based on our current state of knowledge and our experience over the last 13 months, it is likely that we will need to ensure vaccine-based “herd immunity” in order to operate at full capacity with in-person learning in the fall. At present, the three vaccines in wide use today have not been granted full approval by the Food and Drug Administration, nor have we received guidance from the Virginia Department of Health or the Virginia General Assembly. Earlier this week, we received an opinion from the attorney general of Virginia that universities can require an approved COVID-19 vaccine. While we are incorporating new information and guidance in establishing policy around vaccinations for the fall, we strongly encourage everyone to take advantage of the widespread availability of free, safe, and effective vaccines.

In order to assess the current status of vaccine-based immunity among our employees and students, we will be surveying our entire community this week. Employees are encouraged to respond to this brief survey. Students will see a similar survey when they access Canvas. The information provided will be used to plan for the fall semester. We are not collecting any personal information when you complete the survey, and your vaccine registration will remain confidential.

We’ve come this far by supporting each other. Let’s finish the academic year strong together.

Be Committed. Be Well. Go Hokies!

Tim Sands,

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