RADFORD — The city’s number of positive COVID-19 cases has more than doubled in the last week, according to numbers from the Virginia Department of Health.
There were 26 positive cases on Aug. 3 — jumping to 48 on Aug. 7 — before reaching a peak of 54 on Monday.
The new apex coincides with the return of Radford University students, who began returning to campus on the first of August and have been steadily moving in through Monday.
The school previously announced that it would be testing certain students, including those arriving early to campus, such as athletes and resident assistants, who participated in testing organized by the New River Health District, according to previous comments from university spokeswoman Caitlyn Scaggs.
Students returning from a virus hot spot or high prevalence area were also tested by the medical company PathGroup, Scaggs previously stated.
It was estimated that PathGroup would perform nasal swabs on roughly 1,700 students the first two weeks of August, according to the school’s reopening plan. The cost of move-in testing was estimated to cost $170,000, according to school officials.
Scaggs would not confirm on Monday how many tests have been administered since Aug. 1. She also would not confirm if any of the new positive tests involve university students.
“Any and all COVID-19 cases at Radford University are included as part of the Virginia Department of Health’s localized reporting totals,” she wrote in an email Monday afternoon.
When asked if the university plans to change anything about how it would operate based on the increase, Scaggs wrote, “Radford University has developed a comprehensive plan in response to the COVID-19 global health pandemic.
“The University is implementing all facets of that plan in order to promote the health, safety, and well-being of the campus and the community.”
The New River District of the VDH did not immediately respond Monday to questions from The Roanoke Times about the situation.
Radford public schools Superintendent Rob Graham said he was aware of the spike in cases, but the school system will continue with the hybrid plan it has in place when school begins Thursday.
Mayor David Horton — who is an employee at Radford University — said that a spike in cases is obviously not good, but it’s not completely unexpected either.
“That’s why we put in measures in place last week to help mitigate an increase in cases,” he said before a Monday city council meeting, referring to the ordinance passed by council Aug. 4 banning gatherings of more than 50.
Those who violate that could face a civil fine of $300, and $150 for attendees, if they ignore police officers’ warnings.
Limitations on gatherings don’t apply to religious ceremonies, weddings, funerals, day cares, sporting events or large-scale employers, including restaurants.
The director of the New River District of the VDH, Dr. Noelle Bissell, echoed Horton’s comments at a meeting held with local restaurant owners last week about the uptick in cases.
“It’s not a matter of if but when,” she said.
The city council was expected to discuss the potential of a mandatory mask ordinance on Monday night, but that had not happened as of press time.
Horton said prior to the meeting that action on such an ordinance was not planned Monday night.
City resident Jodie Pyles spoke against a mandatory mask requirement during the meeting. He was the only person in the meeting room without one.
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