Important Update on COVID-19 Global Health Pandemic at Radford University (Message from President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. to Alumni)

Important Update on COVID-19 Global Health Pandemic at Radford University

Dear Alumni:

As Radford University reopened on July 27, 2020 and began classes on August 12, 2020, we have focused on implementing our Campus Reopening Plan, while also responding to emerging needs and individual situations. We have engaged in transparency to share campus-based testing information on the University COVID-19 Dashboard. The most recent weekly update, which is now available, represents our continued commitment to actively engage in both accountability and transparency with regard to our on-going efforts.

Last week, public health experts advised that our campus plateaued in terms of COVID-19 cases and should expect to see a decline. This week’s update clearly demonstrates that we have successfully slowed the spread of COVID-19 on our campus with a 67.18% decrease in new positive cases when comparing 195 from the prior update to 64 in the most recent dashboard. Without question, our compliance and enforcement activities are proving to be successful.

I have expressed my sincere appreciation to our talented students, as well as world-class faculty, and dedicated staff, for their diligent efforts in wearing face coverings, exercising physical distancing, and washing hands frequently. I also shared my lasting gratitude with our supportive parents and engaged family members for encouraging these positive behaviors and responsible interactions by their Highlanders. However, I would be remiss if I did not highlight the everlasting support of our passionate alumni!

As the University is committed to protecting and promoting the health, safety, and well-being of all students, as well as faculty and staff, by taking prompt action when necessary, a gathering limitation of 10 individuals was recently instituted for the main campus. The University has been monitoring compliance with the recent gathering restriction for all main campus students in both on-campus and off-campus environments. This increased restriction and related enforcement on gatherings was implemented due to student behavior in our broader community. In partnership with the Virginia Department of Health, specifically the New River Health District, an overwhelming majority of the early positive cases was attributed to students attending two unrecognized fraternity parties and one large gathering, all of which occurred off campus. Students following public health measures and engaging in on-campus activities, such as attending in-person classes while wearing face coverings and exercising physical distancing, have very minimal exposure to COVID-19.

In addition to the increased gathering limitation, the University has taken a number of recent actions to ensure that we are supporting every student in their unique experiences. A call center was established in order to provide increased staffing and expanded support to the Dean of Students Office. This change has allowed us to provide additional one-on-one assistance. Please know that students contacting the University are being provided with the necessary level of assistance and guidance.

The Student Health Center is now offering weekend hours. Students can receive campus-based health services on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00 AM to noon. Additionally, the intake process has been modified to serve more students. The Student Health Center will continue to offer full medical consultations, evaluations, and services for those needing them. However, informational sessions and COVID-19 testing are also being offered in the Buchanan House at the beginning of each hour. Students with mild symptoms associated with COVID-19 can report directly to the Buchanan House without making an appointment with the Student Health Center.

Our campus continues to be a safe learning and living environment as we are disinfecting individual classrooms and common areas twice a day. Disinfecting has been prioritized over cleaning in an effort to ensure a healthy environment. We are requiring face coverings on campus and have reconfigured classrooms to enable physical distancing. Clear barriers have been installed in many areas, including at the front of podiums in classrooms and throughout reception areas in customer-facing offices. Our students, as well as our faculty, staff, and visitors, are completing daily health screenings and being supported through campus services and individual requests.

New River Health District Director Noelle Bissell, M.D. recently shared, “Radford University has been the model of how to manage the return of students to campus during this pandemic. Together, we have weathered the storm. We are through the worst of it. What has happened is exactly what we predicted, and there have been no signs of community transmission.” During a time in which we are experiencing a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases and receiving tremendous support from public health officials, like Dr. Bissell and her dedicated team, social responsibility remains so very critical to our campus, our community, and our success. Please know that we are diligently working to ensure our campus community continues to be a safe learning and living environment for all Highlander students, and we eagerly await a time in which we can openly and safely welcome our Highlander alumni back home!

With Highlander Pride,

Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D.