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Students return to Richmond as VCU works to track COVID-19 on campus

Posted at 3:50 PM, Aug 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-17 17:55:24-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Monday marked day one of in-person classes at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

Approximately half of VCU’s classes will be held in-person, while nearly 35 percent are entirely online, with the remaining scheduled as a hybrid form.

On Friday, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced a network of pick-up locations offering free masks to anyone who needs the essential tool to fight COVID-19.

Stoney also addressed concerns from Richmonders who fear the return of students to campus will lead to a rise in coronavirus cases.

“I did talk to [VCU President] Dr. Rao about that the concerns from residents, too,” he said. “I think you’ll see some transparency from VCU of how residents can keep track of what’s going on campus of those students who may be infected with the virus.”

A VCU spokesperson said the university is in the final stages of developing a public-facing COVID-19 dashboard that will include the number of positive cases on campus. No timeline was given for when the dashboard will go online.

VCU employees and students are required to log their symptoms each day through a program called OneVCU - Responsible Together.

At the beginning of the month, members of the VCU chapter of the American Association of University Professors approved a resolution that said “the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff should be the primary consideration in decision-making about when to reopen a campus.”

They asked VCU administration to reconsider the in-person start to instruction.

There were more than 3,300 reported positive coronavirus cases throughout the city of Richmond. Forty-one Richmonders have died due to the virus.

Lucy and Warren Hottle attend class each semester at VCU as part of the Virginia Senior Citizens Higher Education Act which allows residents who are 60 years of age or older to take college courses without paying tuition. They also live just blocks from campus.

“I’ve been very impressed with all of the students walking around wearing masks,” Hottle said. “I know [the students] are going to party and do things like that. I just don’t want them to park on our street.”

Kaija Taylor, India Johnson, and Alena Clements began their freshmen year on campus Monday. They said their parents were worried about attending in-person classes.

“It’s definitely a scary feeling. I know my parents are nervous with me being here,” Johnson explained.

All three friends were wearing masks and reassured that they follow social distancing and don’t party.

“So we don’t get sent home, please do what you’re supposed to do so we can be in college, get an education and get our college experience,” Johnson urged her fellow students.