BLACKSBURG, Va. - Virginia Tech has created a comprehensive testing, tracing, and case management plan as faculty, staff, and students prepare to return to campus this fall.
Since the start of the pandemic, the university says they have sought to maintain continuity of teaching, research, and engagement missions.
"Since March, we have learned more about COVID-19 and the effectiveness of strategies to limit the spread of the coronavirus. This growing body of knowledge along with our resident expertise in epidemiology, testing, and modeling has informed our planning for the fall. The testing, tracing, and case management plan we are releasing now is designed to allow our university mission to be fulfilled while limiting the spread of the virus and mitigating the risks for our most vulnerable populations,” President Tim Sands said.
The plan includes guidelines for initial and ongoing screening and testing, cooperation with local health department contact-tracing investigations, and effective case management within the university population should an employee or student become infected.
“The testing strategy within the plan will remain flexible, allowing the university to adjust the number and frequency of tests in response to the changing COVID-19 landscape,” said Mike Mulhare, assistant vice president for emergency management. “Implementation of the university’s testing plan will be coordinated by our Schiffert Health Center. Tracing efforts will be in support of the Virginia Department of Health and the New River Health District, who are charged with managing tracing for the commonwealth.”
All members of the Virginia Tech community who plan to return during the fall semester will be strongly encouraged to participate in COVID-19 screening, through a combination of daily health verification surveys and testing.
All students will be asked to self-quarantine and wear a face covering for 14 days before arriving on campus, Tech officials say.
Students planning to live on and off campus will be strongly encouraged to get a PCR COVID-19 test result within five days prior to returning to the area. Those who test positive will be required to self-isolate or self-quarantine before returning to the campus.
Students living on campus can be tested on campus during the move-in days.
“If all our on-campus students participate in this screening program, we will have a very reliable snapshot of health and well-being of our student population, including students from areas of high prevalence, both within and outside of Virginia,” Mulhare said. “That information will help us make informed decisions about future testing and mitigation strategies.”
As the fall semester continues, ongoing diagnostic testing, screening, and surveillance of students will continue through Schiffert Health Center.
Testing of symptomatic individuals will be given the highest priority. Those at increased risk of exposure due to a higher contact environment will also be considered a priority for testing.
As the university becomes aware of individuals who have tested positive, it will notify the health department to coordinate contact-tracing and to provide additional information as requested. To ensure individual privacy, individuals who test positive will not be publicly identified.
The university’s Case Management Team will maintain the university case management system and will coordinate on-campus quarantine, isolation, and decontamination efforts.
Medical professionals from the university’s Environmental Health and Safety office and Schiffert Health Center will serve as liaisons to the Virginia Department of Health.
Students who test positive for COVID-19 should inform the Dean of Students office, which will provide ongoing support for the personal, social, and academic needs of each student. If a student living on campus tests positive, Schiffert will work with Housing and Residence Life staff to relocate the student to New Hall West, which will serve as the residence hall for students who are isolated. While in isolation, students will receive daily health check calls from Schiffert staff.
Employees will be required to notify their supervisor if they must miss work due to illness or are asked to self-quarantine by the Virginia Department of Health. Employees should also report known university contacts and work locations to the Case Management Team to assist the team in determining if there are any additional actions needed by the university.
All employees and students will be required to complete an online coronavirus awareness training program before arriving on campus or another Virginia Tech location, and will be strongly encouraged to complete a daily health verification survey called Hokie Health ✓.
The survey will be available on the “Hokie Ready” public safety and preparedness mobile app the week of August 3.