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Blacksburg Passes New Ordinance Amidst Returning Students

By Colin Gilley | August 19
New Ordinance Article

(Image via blog.virginia)

As August comes to an end and September looms around the corner, the city of Blacksburg gets ready to welcome back thousands of students that attend Virginia Tech. Normally, the city of Blacksburg would welcome these students with open arms but, on Tuesday, August 11th the Blacksburg Town Council passed Ordinance 1942 with the intention to keep people distanced from each other to prevent the spread of Covid-19. This Ordinance has some students pessimistic about returning to Blacksburg.

So what is Ordinance 1942? The Ordinance was passed unanimously on Tuesday, Agust 11th by the Blacksburg Town Council. It was put in place to address the many concerns the residents of Blacksburg have brought to the council. "This isn't about coming down on people, students, or anybody else in town. This is going forward together, looking for health and success." Said Blacksburg Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith. The Mayor also said she hopes this Ordinance will help the students achieve a healthy and successful fall semester in an effort to have a perfectly normal spring semester.

What You Need to Know

Ordinance 1942 will force food establishments to close their doors at midnight, and only allow 50% capacity. Violators could face a fine of up to $500. Take-out and delivery will be allowed past midnight.

Gatherings of people will be limited to no more than 50. Religious ceremonies, weddings, and expressive activity are exceptions to this rule. Everyone must wear masks in public areas. Violators are subjected to a class 4 misdemeanor and a $250 fine up to a class 3 misdemeanor and $500 fine.

The Ordinance will remain in effect for 90 days. The Council can revisit the ordinance at any time to increase or decrease the restrictions.

Students Return

Some students feel living in Blacksburg this semester would be a waste of money and their college experience. An incoming freshman who is taking his classes from home this semester said, "The deciding factor that made me want to stay home was the fact that if I went to Tech in the fall I would be paying $7,000 out of pocket, and by staying at home I only ended up paying $1,200." I asked him about the new ordinance and how he thought that could have affected his freshman year. He felt it would be hard for him to meet people and that he wouldn't have the opportunity to meet as many friends. He felt his best option was to stay home and hope things would get better for the spring semester.

The many students who decided to return to Blacksburg don't know what this semester will hold. A rising sophomore who is living off-campus in an apartment told me he is afraid he won't have access to the school's amenities that he is paying for. "I'm afraid it will be hard to access things such as the library. I am paying for all the services Virginia Tech has to offer and I want to be able to use those resources."

As the 2020 fall semester kicks off, the school and city of Blacksburg will closely monitor COVID cases and decide if further precautions are necessary. Virginia Tech and the Blacksburg Town Council are hopeful that the precautions put in place will be enough to keep COVID cases down, but if there is a spike, the council is able to revisit the ordinance at any time.