March 2020 was no doubt a difficult time for most Hokie Nation members. Many were faced with the difficult decision as to whether or not they should stay in Blacksburg, or head home if travel was possible. All were presented with an almost unpredictable future; one where a fall semester or even a summer in Blacksburg were uncertain. As much time has passed since the university closed in mid-March, there has been a fair amount of change both to campus and Blacksburg. From safety measures to business closures, there is a lot to be noted when coming back to the area.
On Aug. 11, the Blacksburg Town Council voted to enact Ordinance 1942, an emergency act to restrict activities around the area that could pose potential health risks during this pandemic. Some of the key points of this ordinance include the restriction placed on restaurants, bars and breweries, where they are only allowed to operate at 50% capacity. Additionally, social gatherings are limited to 50 people or fewer and everyone must practice social distancing.
While some eateries in the area such as Boudreaux’s Restaurant and FOAMO Cafe remain temporarily closed due to the pandemic, others have shut down for good. Highway 55, Sycamore Deli and Blacksburg Taphouse are some locations in the area that shuttered their doors in recent months.
One of the more notable takeaways from the ordinance is that restaurants and bars must close by midnight, a major change to the nightlife of downtown Blacksburg. Popular spots that, under normal circumstances, would be open past midnight such as Benny Marzano’s, Jimmy John’s and Taco Bell are now required to cease service at midnight.
For those who live in residence halls, life can be seen as vastly different in comparison to years past. Masks must be worn when entering any dorm, and must be kept on until you are in your room. Rooms are now limited to two occupants, and room changes will not be permitted, unless the change is in response to an emergency or a threat to safety.
Dining halls will be visibly different as well, both in occupancy and interior appearance. While all dining facilities will be open, they all follow a reduced occupancy limit of 30% of their normal capacity, with limited seating and spacing procedures intended to promote social distancing while inside. Plexiglass dividers have been installed to reduce exposure between workers and dining patrons, and amenities such as chairs and tables will be regularly sanitized.
As for changes to campus, one recent change was the renaming of the Lee and Barringer residence halls. On Aug. 13, a vote was held by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors that resulted in the unanimous approval of changing the names of residence halls Lee and Barringer to Hoge and Whitehurst respectively. Both of the aforementioned individuals (Hoge referring to Janie and William Hoge, Whitehurst referring to James Leslie Whitehurst Jr.) in which the buildings have been renamed after are distinguished Black members of Hokie Nation who advocated for social equality in their lifetimes.
Signs are posted at the entrance of each building on campus indicating that masks are required for entry in order to promote the safety and well-being of students and faculty. There are also more hand sanitizer dispensers on campus than before and markers on the ground that promote social distancing measures in places like dining halls.
While these changes may not all be surprising, all are new additions to the area that will be a part of Tech’s history. Whether they impact your day-to-day life or are simply just new changes from what you experienced previously, make sure to take notice when back in Blacksburg.