Mar. 30, 2020 - Stay-at-home order issued; A message to Blacksburg Hokies from President Tim Sands; VT political scientist Karen Hult; Updates and notices

March 30, 2020

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issues stay at home order due to COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus)

From: Commonwealth of Virginia, Office of the Governor

To reinforce the Commonwealth’s response to COVID-19 and in furtherance of Executive Orders 51 (March 12, 2020) and 53 (March 23, 2020) and by virtue of the authority vested in me by Article V, Section 7 of the Constitution of Virginia, by § 44-146.17 of the Code of Virginia, I order the following:

All individuals in Virginia shall remain at their place of residence, except as provided by this Order and Executive Order 53. To the extent individuals use shared or outdoor spaces, whether on land or on water, they must at all times maintain social distancing of at least six feet from any other person, with the exception of family or household members or caretakers.

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A message to Blacksburg Hokies from President Tim Sands

As of the morning of March 29, 2020, more than 2,000 Americans had succumbed to COVID-19 and over 120,000 had tested positive. The doubling rate is still on the order of three days. Social distancing and other more stringent measures could slow this increase, but there is no strong evidence of that effect yet at the national scale. If this rapid rate of spread continues, models indicate that over 100,000 Americans could lose their lives to COVID-19 during the next few months.

While this would be an extreme result, it is a tragically realistic estimate if we were to do nothing to flatten the curve by limiting the spread of the disease.

At Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, we are fortunate that the campus depopulated on March 6.  Two weeks of spring break allowed us to prepare. We moved instruction online, closed the dining halls except for pickup and delivery, and issued housing rebates and dining plan refunds and rollovers to reduce the campus residential population to less than 10 percent of normal when instruction resumed on March 23. Most employees are telecommuting under reduced operations. Essential employees are following strict hygiene and distancing guidelines. If conditions indicate, we are prepared to move to restrict operations further while maintaining health, safety, food, IT, and essential research functions.

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'Evidence-based national direction’ still largely lacking in federal coronavirus response, government policy expert says

When it comes to mitigating the effects of COVID-19 in America, President Trump has made his opinion clear: states need to do more. 

“Governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work, and they are doing a lot of this work,” Trump said March 19. “The federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know, we’re not a shipping clerk.”

The problem? Many governors have said they either don’t completely agree with that approach or outright think the opposite. What’s the right approach? Probably somewhere in between, according to Virginia Tech political scientist Karen Hult.

“Federalism is designed based on the interplay across levels of government — for both conflict and cooperation,” Hult said. “There’s considerable evidence now of the national government, though probably belatedly, stepping in.”

Hult noted that the president and his advisors have undertaken federal action and have the authority to do more through various legal mechanisms. President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, for example, allowing him to invoke powers under the National Emergencies and Stafford acts. The Defense Production Act allows the president to order manufacturers to produce needed medical equipment, and Trump has already initiated that process, most recently ordering GM to produce respirators.

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Additional updates and notices

Check back with us periodically to learn about updates, notices, and statements. This page is updated throughout the day, as the information becomes available.

More screen time: Impacts on eyes, work/life balance, and sleep.
From: Hokie Wellness. As work and school environments shift to accommodate social distancing, new health issues and concerns will arise. More time than ever is spent looking at screens. With that comes eye strain, shifts in work/life boundaries and perhaps disrupted sleep.

Hokies step up to deliver meals to school students.
Schools are closed across the commonwealth, but each day they are delivering meals to students via school bus — some with Hokies on board to lend a hand. Graduate student Kelsey Altizer, who is working on her master’s in counselor education through the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center, was interning at William Byrd High School in Roanoke County when its doors closed. She wanted a new way “to fill the void” left by no longer having contact with students. She quickly raised her hand when Roanoke City Public Schools asked for volunteers to help deliver meals.  “I initially had some worry about the health risks, but in the end I felt it was more a benefit for me to help while I was still healthy. Somebody needed to help,” Altizer said. “I knew for many households in the city, a meal could really make a difference.”.

Hokie Wellness offers virtual workshops for managing work stress.
From: Hokie Wellness. New work environments, increased anxiety, and shifting responsibilties due to changes brought on by COVID-19 cause us to have to adapt to new stressors. Often when we’re stressed and feeling strong emotions in the workplace (or in our new work environments), we don’t think or react as rationally as we would like. Many of us experience patterns of thinking, or "mind traps," that can be ineffective and even irrational sometimes. How do we shift these reactions? By learning more about how our thoughts, feelings, and actions all connect. Hokie Wellness will be offering "Resiliency in the Workplace: Learning to Press Pause" via Zoom.

Women in Data Science Blacksburg at Virginia Tech event will be online.
From: Computational Modeling and Data Analytics. The Women in Data Science (WiDS) Blacksburg at Virginia Tech event is moving online. The event will take place on Thursday, April 2, from 5-6:40 p.m. Anyone interested in data science is welcome, regardless of major or gender. More information, Zoom registration and schedule here: