The majority of Hokies are returning to campus this fall fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

As of Aug. 12, 94 percent or approximately 34,066 Hokies, received a vaccine, according to the university’s vaccination dashboard. The fall semester begins on Aug. 23, and move-in for students starts Aug. 14.

All enrolled Virginia Tech students are required to receive a coronavirus vaccine, unless they submitted a medical or religious exemption. Graduate students who are taking classes fully online also can receive a vaccine exemption.

The high percentage of vaccinated Hokies gives Virginia Tech the opportunity to return to a level of normalcy, including resuming in-person classes and many campus activities that could not happen last fall due to the pandemic and before COVID-19 vaccines were available.

“This fall will feel like the Virginia Tech we knew and loved before COVID-19 entered our lives,” said Frank Shushok, vice president of student affairs. “Full residence halls, award-winning dining, intramural sports, amazing student activities, in-person classes, and football are just some of the many things we can expect this fall. Thank you to our students for their abiding commitment to public health and getting us to this moment.”

Noelle Bissell, health director for the New River Health District, has said that the requirement for all university students to be vaccinated is a “wise” move to keep the community safe. This week, she said she was thrilled at the high vaccination rate of Virginia Tech students.

“They are starting in a great place,” she said. “Because of the vaccine mandate and because a lot of them [students] had COVID and are now vaccinated, we don’t expect they will be a significant contribution to our cases right now. If we can get our entire community to that level, then we are in really good shape.”

Charity Hall, a senior at Virginia Tech, is among the vaccinated student population. She said getting a vaccine was important to her after she watched her grandfather suffer in the hospital, in critical condition with COVID-19. He still is experiencing side effects from the coronavirus.

“It was an easy decision to make once I was able to get the vaccine, that I was going to get it,” Hall said.

Plus, as a wildlife conservation major, she’s excited that her lab courses finally will be held in person again.

Last school year “it was difficult to get the full scope of what we were learning online,” Hall said.

Students like Hall are the reason that Virginia Tech can have have a fall semester that resembles a pre-pandemic campus, said Chris Wise, assistant vice president for student affairs.

“Students have shown us through their vaccination uploads that that’s what they want,” he said. “That includes being face-to-face in class, that includes groups and organizational activities and attending concerts. That’s what the Virginia Tech experience is all about. That’s why we are doing all of the things we are doing as an institution so that the students are the beneficiaries of that experience.”

Unvaccinated students will be required to be tested for COVID-19, with an initial frequency of once a week. There are four testing locations on campus — Steger Hall south wing, Squires Student Center, Sterrett Center, and Perry Street parking garage. The nasal and saliva tests will be self administered. Read here for information on testing procedures.

Virginia Tech also strongly encourages faculty and staff to be vaccinated. As of Aug. 12, 77 percent of the university’s employees were vaccinated. Aug. 15 is the deadline for employees to register their vaccination. Vaccinated faculty and staff are exempt from COVID-19 surveillance testing.

To align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the university has instituted an interim requirement for face masks for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, when indoors in designated public areas on campus. In addition, all Blacksburg Transit (BT) riders must wear a mask while on the bus at all times.

Another vaccinated Hokie, Ana Sotelo said she’s excited for the student community to be able to be together again, notably for intramural sports and other physical activities. Some intramural teams could not compete last year, due to COVID-19 restrictions for certain contact sports.

“The Virginia Tech intramural program has truly become a home for me,” said Sotelo, a senior at Virginia Tech who is an intramural supervisor and a member of several sports teams. “The program has been a solid rock that students can depend on for entertainment and community. Through getting the vaccine, we can regain the sense of community that was once had.”

By Jenny Kincaid Boone

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