At Tech, and elsewhere, COVID-19 cases keep rising

Partying by college students is driving the total of COVID-19 virus infections.
Illegal party of University of South Carolina students before it was broken up by Columbia's Fire Department. (Photo by the Columbia FD)

Virginia Tech reported 157 positive tests last week in Blacksburg. We don’t know how many of those might have been members of the school’s football team because coach Justin Fuente doesn’t believe in transparency, a normal move for a university that protects its athletes more than normal students.

We’re in line with them (the school’s listings), before there were students we had very few cases,” Fuente told The Roanoke Times. “I’m not blaming it on the students, it’s just a fact. People have come back to campus and there’s more people around, more traffic in the streets and longer lines at Chipotle. It’s just part of the deal.”

Tech president Tim Sands admits the university may scale back operations if new cases don’t “stabilize and decline.”

Radford University reports 185 new cases while the New River health director says the cases should “plateau” soon.

The University of South Carolina now has more than 1,000 students with COVID-19 and the school has cracked down on nine fraternity and sorority houses that are now in quarantine and the Columbia Fire Department broke up a pool party Saturday where hundreds of students ignored mask and social distancing orders.

“It was almost like Mardi Gras,” Aubrey D. Jenkins, the city’s fire chief, told The State Newspaper in Columbia. The university suspended 15 students and charges six Greek houses with student conduct violations.

In Blacksburg, Virginia Tech’s home football opener was pushed back for two weeks and the Hokies are scheduled to open their season now on Sept. 19 against Virginia.

Roanoke Times sports reporter Mike Noziolek asked Fuente is the team could have been ready this week to play. Fuente, he wrote, chose his words carefully:

What does ‘can you play a game’ mean? You know. Like can you line up 11 people out there? Can you field a team? Or how competitive is it going to be and what’s it going to look like? Is it safe. Can we play? Yeah. But there’s all that grey that I think it’s hard to figure out right now and that’s, answering that part of the question is maybe more important than can you. Yeah, you can. Absolutely. But at what point do we reach the point of it not being very safe.

–Justin Fuente

At the high school level, Virginia’s High School League (VHSL) scrapped all fall school sports, pushing football and others to March 1 on a truncated schedule that runs through May. Even wth that, there are no guarantees that the winter sports like basketball, will start as scheduled on Dec. 28.

On Monday, the Floyd County School system said “an individual associated with the high school” tested positive for COVID-19, but is not saying if it was a teacher, a student, a staff member or someone else.

Floyd County now has 153 cases from the pandemic and more than 130 of them were diagnosed within the last two months.

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