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Officials issue guidelines for reopening colleges, universities in Virginia

Posted at 1:11 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 18:35:17-04

RICHMOND, Va. — State officials released guidelines for how colleges and universities in Virginia will resume classes in the age of COVID-19 during Gov. Ralph Northam's biweekly news briefing Thursday.

"More courses will be taught in an online or hybrid manner," State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Director Peter Blake said. "Classes will be smaller. Schedules will be staggered. Residence life will be spread out."

Blake said each university must submit plans that follows guidance from multiple agencies, including the CDC.

While those plans will be tailored to each community, they must address four things at a minimum, Blake said.

"The repopulation of the campus, monitoring health conditions to detect infection, containment to prevent spread of the disease when detected, and shutdown considerations if necessitated by severe conditions or public health guidance," Blake said.

That includes enhance social distancing and disinfecting procedures. And along with those plans, officials said schools will have to meet certain public health conditions specific to their area before being allowed to reopen.

"To ensure that there are positive trends in public health data and that their community has adequate surge healthcare capacity," Northam said.

Northam also cautioned Thursday that even though the state is reopening and moving toward a new normal, Virginians can’t let their guard down.

"It's not smart to act like the virus has been eradicated because it has not," he said. "It is still here. It is still dangerous and we must continue to be cautious."

At Northam’s last news conference, he unveiled his administration’s guidelines for how PreK-12 schools can reopen safely. Secretary of Education Atif Qarni told CBS 6 they planned to release the guidelines for colleges and universities at Thursday’s news conference.

Northam also announced at the last news conference that Richmond and Northern Virginia could begin phase two of the reopening process on Friday.

Thursday’s news conference also comes as protests in response to the death of George Floyd continue in Virginia, which the Governor has addressed at the last three news conferences.

Since Tuesday, there have been several cases of protesters pulling down statues, including the Jefferson Davis statue on Monument Avenue on Wednesday night, the Christopher Columbus statue in Byrd Park on Tuesday night, and the Confederate monument in Portsmouth.

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for the most complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.