Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, praised Virginia Tech for its research efforts during her visit to campus Sept. 16.
“Beginning in March we really called on research institutions to turn on their research equipment to bring additional testing to the United States,” Birx said. “There’s only a handful of institutions that have done this, and I really want to applaud Virginia Tech.”
Her visit to Virginia Tech was her last stop on a tour of mostly southern universities that have reopened in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Through the tour, Dr. Birx aimed to gather insight and offer advice to university leaders.
During this visit, she had a discussion with various university leaders, such as President Sands, and also talked to students about Virginia Tech’s research and efforts to combat COVID-19.
“We decided that when we saw colleges opening and some of them closing that it was really important to get to college campuses to understand the student, the faculty and the administrators' approach to this,” Birx said.
Birx praised Virginia Tech’s asymptomatic testing efforts, citing Virginia Tech’s testing of campus wastewater that will help identify if there is asymptomatic spread to and respond to any positive indicators.
She also acknowledged how Virginia Tech’s expertise in droplet movement could help the research field figure out the appropriate distance required to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Virginia Tech’s testing efforts also caught Birx’s eye as she praised the transformation of campus labs to support COVID-19 testing.
“This is a university that understood the need, understood the gap and was willing to self-sacrifice their own research opportunities to bring additional testing solutions to the people of this community and this university campus,” Birx said. “I’m really proud of what they’ve done.”
However, Birx did express a desire for Virginia Tech to get to a place where it is able to test students every two weeks. Virginia Tech’s ability to do this will partially depend on how much of its testing is being allocated to the community.