VCE COVID-19 Updates

Virginia Cooperative Extension is committed to ensuring the health and wellbeing of our faculty, staff, and stakeholders and wants to help our community as it deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.

This page will provide updates from the state office as often as possible to keep our employees and the public aware of decisions from central VCE administration. Check back for updates.

Extension staff resources

Latest updates

Dear colleagues:

We hope your week is off to a good start.  We have a short list of updates today, but are expecting several items from our universities soon.  We will only be sending out updates on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

  • Our weekly “Ask Ed & Ray Anything” session will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. via this Zoom link. Submit anonymous questions via this survey by 10 p.m. today. Questions will also be taken during the meeting.
  • Plant Sales: To protect our Master Gardeners and clientele that are in a high-risk population for COVID-19, and in the spirit of the Governor's stay-at-home order, no plant sales will be taking place under the auspices of Virginia Cooperative Extension, either in person or virtually. In reaching this conclusion, please know that the executive team has the best interests of VCE’s Master Gardeners and clients at heart.
  • Budget: We are expecting to be given guidance on preparing for budget reductions for the next fiscal year which starts July1.  It is prudent at this time to limit all discretionary spending, anticipating carryover can help buffer some of the budget reductions.  We will also be given guidance on hiring
  • VCE Summer Internship Program: While awaiting University guidance concerning the VCE Internship program, we are developing a survey to send to supervising agents. The purpose is to assess your interest and ideas about interns which can support on-line programming efforts, as an alternative to the traditional internship experience. Responding to the survey does not commit your unit to hosting an intern.
  • Zoom Sessions: Remember that Zoom sessions submitted for internal audiences taking place this week are located on the internal COVID-19 website. Those for external audiences are located here:  http://bit.ly/VirginiaExtensionPrograms.  There are some cross postings for sessions that are offered for both internal and external audiences.

We continually marvel at the wonderful and creative ways VCE has accepted the challenge and is serving our communities.

Stay safe,

Ed and Ray

Dear colleagues:

There are several topics in today’s updates that we hope answer some of the questions that have been raised.  Please let us know when there are concerns or questions.  It is only then we can do something about it or let you know why we can’t.

We have responses to some of your fiscal questions...

  • Funds Handling:  During this time with offices closed or closed to the public, working remotely, and social distancing; specific efforts do not need to be made to collect the mail in order to collect and subsequently deposit checks. Thus, our expectations on deposits are relaxed; however, the expectation is that if a Unit chooses to continue to collect and deposit cash and/or checks that the required separation of duties and verification of funds per the policy be maintained.

Travel: It is Commonwealth of Virginia policy that a traveler be reimbursed for the shorter of the two distances to a destination be it home or office.  Unfortunately, we do not have the authority to modify that guidance.

Shipments:  Hokiemart does not allow us to change the “ship to” address.  Other options include:  1) purchasing via a P-card: However, if you are using a company found via the HokieMart punchout, a P-Card cannot be used (example, a P-Card cannot be used with Amazon) or 2) purchase with personal card and be reimbursed.  In either case, preapproval must be sought from unit coordinator, district director, AREC Director, department head, or other supervisor. This preapproval can be via email, which must be saved to provide documentation in the event of an audit. The email should include relevant detail related to the items planned for purchase and which program/research/or activity the items are for, as is the case with the current Pre-Approval paper process specific to VCE, but important for all other departments at this time.

DestinyOne:  DestinyOne charges for programs are waived through June 30, 2020.  Credit card charges cannot be waived; however, they will be charged to the appropriate accounts and documented so that if we receive emergency relief funds or other resources, then relief can be applied to those accounts.

On-line Programming

  • Conversations are underway about how to build out VCE programs into more complete educational experiences to duplicate, as much as possible, the in-person experience.  Combining Zoom, Canvas, and DestinyOne has many benefits, to include:   
    • Ease of registration for the participant through a public website
    • Ability to market the program with Twitter re-tweet and Facebook posting options of public website
    • Reporting that allows us to easily track programs and participation – will provide a means for agents to track their activities during this time period
    • Live and recorded instruction
    • Allows for handouts, discussion groups, quizzes, Zoom links, etc.
    • Ability to do batch emails, class announcements, and evaluations after the course

To get started, simply submit a request through: https://tinyurl.com/DestinyOneRequest. This will be followed up with a meeting with Traci McCoy and Mark Sumner to finalize all details.  Please allow one week lead time before you need the event completed.

Reflections Tool - Lessons Learned

  • If we don’t regularly document the lessons we are learning through this process of adaptation and response to the current COVID19 situation as we go along, we risk missing them. To encourage you to reflect on, learn from, and document your responses, VCE specialists have created a tool that can be used by individuals, program teams, units, ARECs and/or departments. Our hope is this will allow everyone to regularly and intentionally document how their work is changing and will provide space and time for reflections. 

The tool is a google form that will allow you to see your responses over time and will also allow you to see other people’s responses. The tool is primarily for you and will be most effective if you use it regularly on whatever schedule works for you (daily, weekly, etc.). Responses will also help us learn how the system is responding and give us a snapshot of organizational learning. The amount of time you need to complete the form will depend a lot on you, but you can generally go through the form in about 5-10 minutes. 

Click here to access the tool: https://forms.gle/4vhJxR9hgBgpx5o58

 If you have questions or comments about this form, contact Sarah Baughman, Tom Archibald, or Karen Vines.

Internal on-line training:

Update on our updates:

  • Starting April 6 the COVID-19 update will move to a Monday, Wednesday, Friday distribution schedule.

We have made it through another week, adapting and learning about how we can serve our clientele.  Enjoy the sunshine and have a great weekend.

Stay safe,

Ed and Ray

Dear colleagues:

It’s a beautiful, if a bit chilly, spring day! We wanted to share the following updates with you:

  • We received a number of questions on fiscal and travel policy.  We will have the answers to those questions in tomorrow’s update.
  • The Virginia State Police issued this press release yesterday that outlines how law enforcement is enacting the governor’s recent order. It also states that you do not need documentation when traveling in Virginia.  
  • We have heard from a number of people concerned about Zoom meetings being disrupted by someone joining a meeting and sharing inappropriate images or videos.  This practice is referred to as “Zoom Bombing” and is discussed in a communication disseminated this morning from Scott Shetrone.  Scott notes that, on March 31, Zoom enabled the Waiting Room feature to be on by default. This allows you to admit people individually into the meeting.  Zoom posted a detailed Best Practices for Securing Your Virtual Classroom article that outlines other ways to secure your meetings.  Please see Scott’s message for further insights.
  • VCE-branded Zoom backgrounds. We now have a number of VCE-branded backgrounds you can use in Zoom meetings. Download them here.  
  • A brief update on selected Program Team related events.  The Ag Policy & Market Outlook Forum will now include information on the effect of COVID-19 on agribusinesses, ag trade, and the ag industry in general.  The webinar will take place today from 5p.m. to 6:30p.m.  Request the link to attend directly from John Bovay bovay@vt.edu .
  • The Weed ID Clinic is continuing normal operations. They are working remotely to the greatest extent possible. Please continue to use the online submission website (https://weeds.cals.vt.edu/pages/login.php), so they are aware of when to expect samples.

Be well, friends.

Ed and Ray

Dear colleagues:

Thank you for all that you continue to do every day to help our friends and partners across the Commonwealth in these challenging times. Your flexibility, good attitude, and willingness to do whatever it takes to help our communities is a testament to both you, individually, and to the strength of our organization.  

Thank you for attending the “Ask Ed & Ray Anything” session today.  The recording is located here.    

“On Call” During the session, we discussed the topic of “On Call Leave” and have received several requests for clarification. Some employees may have work that they can complete at home; but, they may not have forty hours’ worth. For the additional hours, employees are in “on call” status, meaning that they are ready to be called to work as needed.  However, some grant supported employees may have different circumstances, and we recommend everyone consult with their supervisor with questions and how to address the situation.

Travel Authorizations There have been several questions about whether Virginia is requiring agricultural producers or workers to carry a letter showing they have permission to travel. Virginians are NOT required to carry a letter of this nature, Executive Orders 53 and 55 say that people are free to travel to work, get food, medical care and other important activities.

Sunbelt Farmer of the Year Nominations: Today was the original deadline for submitting Sunbelt Farmer of the Year nominations.  We have not received any nominations, as folks’ attention has understandably been focused elsewhere.  Dan Goerlich has extended the deadline for FOY nominations until April 15. Virginia farmers have won two out of the last three Sunbelt Farmer of the Year awards.  Let’s make sure that we have a candidate in the running again this year. Please contact Dan for a copy of the application.

Shout Out  We want to give a shout out. Within a two-week time frame, Scott Greiner worked with the BCIA board, and Extension Agents across the Southwest District, to move the annual SW Virginia BCIA Bull Sale from a traditional in barn sale, to a combination of on-line and telo-auction sales. Realizing that many producers lacked access or comfort in using these tools, Extension agents set up 11 remote sites, taking registrations and planning for adherence to social distancing guidelines. Our Agents quickly spread the word among producers and helped reassure them that the new format would work. On sale day, agents assisted producers at each of the sites. 115 bulls were sold for an average of $3,230 and almost half of the bulls sold through the remote sites.

Diagnostic Labs: As far as we know, all the labs are operating.  If there are changes we will let you know asap.

For details on the Insect ID Lab go to: https://www.ento.vt.edu/index/COVID-19_Insect_ID_Lab.html

Plant Disease Clinic:  They continue to be available and  are in the lab when notified samples have been delivered.  No walk-ins are accepted as campus is closed to the public.

Soil Testing Lab:  The lab continues to operate.  It is behind in processing samples due to reduced staffing but they are working to close the gap as best they can.  Again, no walk-in samples are accepted.

Thank you again for all that you do. As we said during the call today, please make sure to take the time needed to ensure that you are taking care of yourselves and your families, both mentally and physically. You have a lot on your plate right now - but we will get through all this together.  

Ed and Ray

Dear colleagues:

We know many of you are trying to plan around what life will look like when COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed, and we can start getting back to normal operations. We understand and respect the fact that you often need weeks or months to plan for programming events. Please be aware, though, that based on yesterday’s update from Governor Northam, Virginia Cooperative Extension should not plan to host any in-person programming until after June 10th, which is the date through which Executive Order Fifty-Five states Virginians must primarily remain in their place of residence.  Also, please take into account that any in-person programs planned for the immediate weeks or even months after June 10th may still need to be cancelled, postponed, or converted to an all-digital format, based on the circumstances at that time. Our recommendation is that, when planning events into the future, you think virtual first...and then transition to face-to-face later on if that is the preferred format, and the opportunity allows. We understand that this is a different way of thinking, but we feel it reflects reality for the foreseeable future. Additional updates follow:

  • Our weekly “Ask Ed & Ray Anything” session will be held Wednesday 11 a.m. via this Zoom link
  • The VCE Leadership team met today to discuss the impact of the most recent Governor’s Executive Order on spring and summer 4-H programming. The following plan is being operationalized for implementation:
    1. Given the Governor’s Executive Order released yesterday, we are planning for multiple circumstances with several possible scenarios in regards to spring and summer 4-H programming. We understand the impact on your programming and the anxiety that you are feeling as a result.
    2.  All in-person 4-H events scheduled for spring should be postponed until after June 10, at a minimum. Should the Governor's EO be rescinded or amended this will be re-evaluated. Given the uncertainty around when and to what extent restrictions will be lifted, you are strongly encouraged to plan for virtual programming, even beyond June 10, to ensure the availability of high-quality, consistent programming.
    3. State 4-H Congress will become a virtual event in 2020. Several exciting ideas are being discussed to make this an outstanding event for our teens. The Virginia All Star Executive committee will be discussing alternatives for tapping new members. The Centennial celebration will be rescheduled for 2021, along with all associated 4-H Alumni Engagement events.
    4. We have a unique relationship with our 4-H Educational Centers. We operate our 4-H camping program in partnership with each 4-H Center, which is an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Thus, the centers receive minimal operating funds from VCE and must generate revenue to sustain the operation and to keep 4-H camper fees as low as possible. VCE is exploring all options to assist the 4-H Centers.
    5. 4-H Residential Camps - In order to offer camp to as many 4-Hers as possible, each 4-H Center will work with the units in their service area to create a modified schedule with camps beginning the week of June 28. This may require re-clustering to ensure each locality has the opportunity to camp. This plan provides a two-week window from the June 10 date for onsite training of staff, teens, and adult volunteers. Should the restriction be lifted early or each week not be filled by the camping units, 4-H Centers will consider offering specialty camps using open enrollment. 
    6. Please do not communicate with 4-H families until directed to do so. This will allow time for proposed schedules to be developed, and will enable administration to discuss refund policy and procedures with University officials, ensuring consistency across the state.
  • The 2020 Spring 4-H Paper Clover campaign with Tractor Supply Company (originally scheduled to take place 4/29 – 5/10) will be postponed to a later date.  Details regarding the new dates will be discussed between TSC and National 4-H Council in May, and confirmed next steps will be shared as they become available.  We also want to confirm that our partnership with Tractor Supply will continue with the Fall Paper Clover campaign as planned for 10/7 – 10/18.   
  • Improvements are being made to the internal and external VCE COVID-19 webpages. You will notice that they are organized a little differently to provide easier access to information. One example is that one no longer has to access a Google Excel sheet to view upcoming professional development sessions. Simply click on the Online Training Resources tab and a list will populate. Clicking the event title will start the Zoom session. Thanks to Lauren Shutt for her innovative approach to managing the website. Please continue to work through the VCE program teams to share programming needs or resources. 
  • We have received several requests for clarification regarding farm visits. Farm visits may continue. In doing so, we recommend that the agent and producer first determine if the matter can be resolved from a distance via a telephone conversation, e-mail communication, or by using an approach like FaceTime assuming the agent and producer have the necessary tools and connectivity. If the agent must physically visit the farm that is allowable. During a farm visit, the agent must strictly adhere to social distancing guidelines for the protection of both the agent and the producer. Upon conclusion of the visit, the agent can then provide the recommendation from a safe distance, via telephone, or via e-mail. We respect that there is often a social component to farm visits that this approach infringes upon. However, our goal in making these recommendations is to safeguard both the client and the agent, while still providing our clients with essential information important to their livelihood.
  • Thanks to Extension Agent Ed Olson for suggesting that the eXtension “Ask an Expert” (AaE) feature be considered for Unit office websites, as an additional avenue for clients to access Extension services. AaE is one way to receive and respond to questions from clients in the Unit office. It was developed by eXtension many years ago. Some Units already have an AaE widget on their Unit website landing page and adding it now will be a Unit office level decision.  If you would like to do this, here are the instructions for adding AaE, and doing so in a manner whereby questions will route first to the Unit office. 
  1. Put the AaE widget on your Unit landing page: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1G27UoUraRdi428ZRzsFmXGQBsTX2CGod/view
  2. Get an eXtension ID (if you don’t already have one):  https://people.extension.org/
  3. Log in to AaE: http://create.extension.org/node/99876
  4. Update your profile and location to include your Unit http://create.extension.org/node/94561

For questions about the AaE widget, contact Lauren Shutt (leshutt@vt.edu). For other questions about AaE, contact Mike Lambur (lamburmt@vt.edu).:

  • With regard to shipments coming to Unit offices, please consider if someone will be in your office to receive UPS shipments before placing orders on the VCE/Office Depot Storefront.  Some orders have been returned to the Office Depot print facility, because no one was in the office to receive them. If you have any questions, please contact vcedistributioncenter@vt.edu.

We know this is a long update, but we wanted to get new information out as soon as possible.  We appreciate all the creativity that is going into serving the people of Virginia.  We hope you are feeling free to really try new means of meeting your community’s needs.  Please take care of yourself and your family!

Stay safe,

Ed and Ray

Dear colleagues:

This afternoon Governor Northam announced a stay-at-home order for the Commonwealth of Virginia due to the continued spread of COVID-19.  To read more about the order, visit https://www.governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/all-releases/2020/march/headline-855702-en.html The Executive Order was extended until June 10 unless rescinded or amended by another Executive Order. More guidance for how this order impacts VT, VSU, and VCE will be forthcoming in Tuesday’s update.  

  • We are well-positioned for the Governor’s announcement through our efforts to telework and the great strides we have made organizationally, toward transitioning our educational content delivery model to virtual delivery modes.  Thank you for your efforts. They are noticed and appreciated.
  • Our weekly “Ask Ed & Ray Anything” session will be held Wednesday 11 a.m. via this Zoom link. Submit anonymous questions via this survey by 10 p.m. today. Questions will also be taken during the meeting.
  • Cyndi Marston cmarston@vt.edu has led an effort for many months to compile public facing ANR programming into a Google calendar http://bit.ly/VirginiaAgPrograms to expand the reach of our sessions.  Cyndi is now focusing this effort on virtual programming and has graciously agreed to expand this effort to include all program areas.  If you are offering an educational program for the general public and would be willing to make that available to audiences beyond your service area, please share that information with Cyndi and she will post to the Google calendar.  This will help us create a master list of public-facing educational programs that agents can share with clients around the state.  
  • Please continue to send internal-facing in-service professional development sessions to Dan Goerlich dalego@vt.edu for posting.  In-service sessions scheduled for this week thus far include efforts by Jeremy Daubert and Cynthia Martel (March 31), Dahlia O’Brien (April 2), Crystal Tyler-Mackey (April 2 & 3), and Chad Proudfoot (April 3).  Please note that Dr. O’Brien’s session on de-wormer resistance requires that you register in advance for the meeting:  https://virginiatech.zoom.us/meeting/register/vJwrc-6spzgqmMpWsNkHxOh7Q8nQr_wl9A (after which you will receive the Zoom link).
  • Deanna Sumners, Digital Content Specialist with CALS Communications, can help expand the reach of your social media based programming to additional audiences through the VCE Facebook page.  Deanna has noted an “amazing diversity and number of people we can reach when we do that.”  Please reach out to Deanna drreid@vt.edu to discuss further or share your social media events.  (Note that the Communications and Marketing staff will also be tracking the Google calendar maintained by Cyndi Marston.) And don't forget you can also tag https://www.facebook.com/VsuCollegeOfAgriculture/ to share your event on the VSU College of Agriculture Facebook page, as well. You can learn more about best practices in the March 26 update on this page
  • Zeke Barlow, Michelle Olgers, and the top notch communications and marketing teams at VT and VSU have developed a comprehensive and coordinated communication strategy to guide efforts going forward.  Stay tuned for further information.

We know we are all adapting to this current reality to some degree. We are experiencing new frustrations, and yet we are being creative and developing new ways of working and serving our communities.  We continue to encourage you to do what you are able under the circumstances.   We are one of the rays of hope for the people of Virginia. 

Stay safe,

Ed and Ray

Dear colleagues;

We wanted to end the work week (but we know there is no end of the work) with some more uplifting things that are going on.

First, a great success from VSU with Dr. Reza Rafie’s virtual blueberry walk. Go to VSU Cooperative Extension webpage to view this great example of education in our current times:  https://www.ext.vsu.edu/horticulture . Kudos to the team that made this possible, and showing how we can still take our programs to the people! The program was viewed live by 720 people and has, as of this morning, received an additional 958 viewers. It is also going to be featured on Virginia Public Radio and by Virginia Farm Bureau as an example of how VCE is transitioning to virtual programming during this challenging time.

Another great story highlights the 4-H Tech Changemakers in Charlotte County, and features one of our Youth In Action Award winners, Eli Price. The National 4-H Council release can be viewed here: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLQOnkCfioM&feature=youtu.be

State 4-H Update will be distributed through 4HOnline, informing parents and members of current programming restrictions. 

More great work from our Program Teams:

 

Animal and Production Team

  • The SW BCIA Bull test sale has moved to a combination of on-line and tele-auction, with agents hosting sites for producers without connectivity or unfamiliarity with technology. Producers are registering, so sites can adhere to groups of 10 or less people.

Food, Nutrition, and Health

  •  Information for people who don’t normally cook at home
  •  Grocery store resources
  • Healthy snacks and meals
  • A meeting of agents and specialists, from four program teams, was held and they have compiled a list of relevant VCE resources that currently exist; and, ones that they may need to identify from other Extension systems or may need to be created
  • FNP has excellent resources which are available for broader distribution
  • Feedback from agents indicate increased interest in:
    • Gardening 
    • Food preservation 
    • Renee Boyer is setting up a meeting to discuss producing some videos on basic food preservation
    • AG in the Classroom has been identified as a good resource
    • Exploring different ways to utilize social media to get the word out and connect Unit and VCE social media
    • Cooking with kids

We have met with the leadership of our agriculture partners and want to be sure folks know about their resources as well at:

Virginia Farm Bureau  https://www.vafb.com/FarmerResources and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services https://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/about-emergency-information.shtml

Don’t forget eXtension as another resource that is available to the entire Land-Grant University system to share various materials and institutional responses to COVID-19.  Check it out at https://impact.extension.org

Another good source is the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) https://extensiondisaster.net/ .

We can’t thank you enough for the great work you are doing for the people of Virginia in these trying times.  As we go into this weekend, please be mindful of taking care of yourself and your family.   

Stay safe,

Ed and Ray

Dear colleagues;

We know there is lots of work taking place in developing creative ways to serve the people of Virginia.  We want to just inform you of some of the efforts from the Program Teams as they collaborate and work on those pressing issues.  Today we would like to highlight what is going on in the Human Development Team and the Family Community Economic Development Team:

The Human Development Team has:

  • Posted all stress reduction materials
  • Developed a teen suicide resources tip sheet for parents
  • Developed a Washing Hands with Toddlers video this week

The Family and Community Economics Team is meeting regularly to:

  • Focus efforts on how to support the communities in the long-term with the impact of unemployment.
  • Develop a strategy to enable VCE to be a connector of resources available in their community. 
  • Work on modules and resources in the following areas: financial scams, student loan deferment, how tax deferment will work this year, and how incentive money will work.  
  • Finalize an on-line introductory course in money management that would encourage people to reach out to Extension agents for additional resources and in-depth information. Lessons are instructional, focused on personal finance, and include with help videos. The concept is to assign select agents as “Course Facilitators” that will serve various regions of the state to ensure full coverage even in areas where communities do not have an FCS agent. These individuals would be included in an introductory video as community contacts for further information.

We know that others are working hard to adjust to the challenges presented by the COVID pandemic and are stepping up to help out in these challenging times. We encourage you to share and we want to hear about such stories. Our communications team is collecting them to write a story about your efforts to serve the community.  You can fill out this survey link or you can simply email our communications directors Zeke Barlow at zekebarlow@vt.edu or Michelle Olgers at molgers@vsu.edu.

Other updates Include:

  • “Ask Ed and Ray Anything” recording.  Ed forgot to press record at the beginning of the Zoom session.  He will have someone take lead of that task in the future. My apologies.
  • Travel Authorization Letters;  In conversations with our agricultural partners we are proposing folks use the following language if needed in communications.  There are no restrictions although some industries that work across state lines might have different expectations in those other states.
  •  Authorization and Permission to continue working:  Many states have started to require/issue letters indicating the holder is part of an essential industry/enterprise or government service, and therefore able to move freely to conduct business. Currently in Virginia the primary focus is on limiting non-essential retail and recreational and entertainment businesses. Consequently, there are no restrictions on enterprises that are not deemed non-essential from performing job duties and traveling to and from jobs. Therefore, it is not necessary to have such a letter of authorization to be developed and provided. If the Governor does place further restrictions, new guidance will be provided. Entities operating across state lines should seek guidance from the other states within which they are doing business.
  • The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has issued updated guidance for farmers markets, roadside stands, produce auctions, and U-pick operations.  These updated guidelines are located here.  A farmers market dialogue took place this afternoon via Zoom to discuss current issues, strategies, share examples of alternative business models, and connect agents to organizational resources.  The session recording can be viewed here.  A multi-agency team is being established within the CLRFS Program Team to respond to this issue.  Please contact Eric Bendfeldt ebendfel@vt.edu and French Price frenchprice@vt.edu with questions or to learn more about how to engage.
  • Social media: Since in-person programming is not happening right now, most events on social media, specifically Facebook, have been deleted. However, we are aware a lot is still going on, and we want to convey this message. Please tag Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia 4-H in your social media posts.

Also, please create Facebook events for upcoming webinars and programming that are open to the public and add VCE as a co-host. Creating Facebook events, in addition to creating promotional posts, will allow us all to promote the great things that are coming up. By adding VCE as a co-host, your event will show up on the VCE events page and our followers will see each event as a post. This makes it easier for the main VCE page to share and promote your event too. Additionally, the Facebook event format allows for a nicer way to include globs of Zoom information without having to take up valuable reading space in a post.

It is amazing how many people are reached by event posts, and this is another way to help the public see that VCE is still doing great things.

Facebook Event Tips

  • Tag Virginia Cooperative Extension in posts on all social media platforms so we can help promote events and information
  • If you don’t tag us, we may not see your post and won’t be able to help promote the great things you’re doing
  • Add Virginia Cooperative Extension as a co-host
  • Be clear about what the event is and where it is being held (online through Zoom or another platform)
  • Add all relevant Zoom login/access information to details section
  • Remember that most people do not use Zoom regularly, so only include what they need to access your program
  • Include your contact information for event and technology questions
  • Use a relevant, high-quality photo for your event header

Questions? Get in touch with Deanna Sumners at drreid@vt.edu

Stay safe and healthy,

Ed and Ray

Dear colleagues;

We want to thank you all who participated in the Ask Ed and Ray Anything session today. We hope we were able to answer your questions, and most importantly reassure you of the future of VCE.  It is apparent that as each of us reads information, it gets interpreted in multiple ways. We want  these daily communications and the weekly Zoom session help clarify and inform. Today's session was recorded and will be posted on our COVID-19 updates webpage.

Jobs:  We had multiple questions come in about the future of our jobs. We want to reaffirm that there are no discussions happening concerning people being laid off, furloughed, or otherwise adversely impacted. Both universities are intent on keeping our workforce in place.  As we indicated, when this is over, we are going to need everyone going full speed.  

Budget:  Although related to the previous item, it is pertinent to point out COVID-19 will have a profound impact on the economy. We, therefore, need to prepare for some belt tightening.  That would mean primarily not filling open positions and perhaps some reductions in operating funds related to programming efforts. There is no need to be worried about this until we have more information.

Summer Programming:  Even though a number of decisions need to be made very soon about a variety of programs and events for the summer, including camps, we are trying to get some additional guidance on some questions to help us make an informed decision.  We understand the pressure everyone is under to make plans, etc.

Teleworking:  If you are not clear on your circumstances, please contact your district director or supervisor for guidance. Each unit is different and we know things change quickly.  We also realize that there are many challenges with working remotely; please - just do your best to  do the job we are called to do, and don’t stress about it.

Ed was on a national call this afternoon with representatives from Google, Microsoft, and other major groups. There are 7 million youth in this country without connectivity. There are many in Virginia without connectivity. Let’s be creative and figure out how to reach and serve them.

Please check the VCE COVID-19 webpage for additional resources and information. Keep your questions, ideas, stories, and lessons coming. We are all in it together.

Stay safe and well,

Ed and Ray

Colleagues;

As we navigate these unchartered waters, we want to thank you for your patience and understanding as circumstances evolve.  Our first priority is your safety and well-being, and we take it very seriously as we try to get answers and provide guidance.  We know that many who are working from home have significant challenges with taking care of family members as you try to get the job done.  We acknowledge that stress and want to encourage you to take care of yourselves.  Extension folks have a tendency to focus on their clientele at the expense of their own mental and physical health.  When you are under stress as we are in a time of an emergency, please reach out to the resources available to support and help.

We are indeed in the early phase of an emergency, working to respond to the many issues and questions that come up.  During this phase, it is easy to lose sight of two very important things we need to be doing.  First, we need to regularly take a breath and think about what we have learned in this process. When it is all over, we will spend time evaluating and preparing for future events.  However, if we don’t regularly document what lessons we learned as we go along, we risk missing them.  We encourage everyone to periodically jot down some notes, and then as units or teams reflect and further document.  We want to be able to know how well we did and to be able to tell the value of who we are.  

Which leads us to the second item: We care about our communities, and because we do, we need to start thinking and strategizing now for what comes after this immediate crisis phase.  COVID-19 will be life-changing for many in our communities, jobs, businesses, financial issues, stress, farms, etc. are all going to be top of mind as we transition to recovery.  As you see the impact now, think of how we can prepare our organization to be there to help.  We know the program teams have started this thinking, and it will be through them we position our efforts to be the most effective.  There are many organizations willing to help in emergencies and disasters that do a great job.  However, they tend to be present for a limited period of time.  The value Extension brings is that we live in those communities and we will be here for the long haul.  We assure you this crisis will direct our programming for some time to come.

One last word before the daily updates.  There are many in our communities who are not connected to faith-based or other organizations, may be of limited resources or hampered with lack of other support systems.  I think of elderly without family, those who may be going hungry, you know who we are talking about.  I encourage everyone to think about what we collectively and individually can be doing to reach out and do what is right.  We serve all people in the commonwealth.

Updates

Our weekly Ask Ed Anything to answer your questions will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at this Zoom link. These will be held weekly going forward and archived on the VCE COVID-19 website.

A youth livestock FAQ sheet is available on the COVID-19 website at this link.

In alignment with Governor Northam’s directive that all K-12 schools be closed for the remainder of the academic year, all in-person 4-H programming will remain suspended until further notice. We will continue to monitor the situation, discuss late spring and summer programming, and provide timely updates regarding the suspension. The State 4-H Office will schedule additional Zoom sessions for further guidance and resource collaboration.

Virginia Tech is hosting a zoom call on Friday for faculty of all classifications.  Details are in today’s Daily News.  They also have an FAQ for faculty at this link.

We have created a sign that you can customize to post at your unit offices with contact information when offices are closed. You can download and customize the sign here (it downloads automatically when you click it). There is also an instructional video on how to post the sign to your local unit office website here

We continue to add resources to the VCE COVID-19 webpages for the public and for VCE faculty and staff. Please visit them often. Several stress reduction resources have been posted recently.

Stay safe,

Ed and Ray

Good afternoon, colleagues:

Here are the latest updates from VCE administration regarding coronavirus developments.  This and all other communications and resources from administration can be found at the VCE coronavirus webpage.

  • The screening requirements outlined in the March 20 Virginia Tech communication to the university community apply to individuals returning to Blacksburg.  We believe similar guidance is appropriate for faculty and staff living and working elsewhere in the state.  Some folks live in COVID-19 hotspots and do not have to fill out the survey.  Those who don’t and have traveled to an area now considered a COVID-19 hotspot in the past 14 days are welcome to contact their local Department of Health office with questions about whether a screening is right for you.  State employees are not allowed to travel outside the state for work.  However, employees who live outside of Virginia can continue to commute as long as their office remains open.   Travel within the state is still allowed, but caution should be exercised.
  • Going forward, we will host weekly “Ask Ed Anything” sessions to answer questions from the field.  The next session will be held Wednesday, March 25 at 11 a.m. via this Zoom link. Submit anonymous questions via this survey by 10 p.m. the Monday before the meeting.  Questions will also be taken during the session.
  • Federal ESF 11 would like feedback regarding any supply chain issues with livestock and poultry production and processing that are known in Virginia at this time.  Please communicate any known issues to Dan Goerlich dalego@vt.edu for compilation.
  • The Animal Production/Livestock-Forage In-service previously scheduled for May has been canceled.  The organizers will decide at a later time about how to proceed (i.e., rescheduling vs. alternative delivery method).
  • We are starting to populate the VCE coronavirus webpage with subject matter Zoom sessions volunteered by specialists, program teams, and DPLT members.  The first session is coming up on March 26.  Please note whether the sessions are intended for internal audiences, external audiences, or both.  Sessions described as “internal” are in-service training for faculty and staff.  Sessions including the “external” label can be marketed to clients and partners.   
  • ESF 11 and VDEM are closely monitoring feeding programs and the food supply chain.   The Virginia Feeding Task Force currently anticipates a lack of volunteers and need to coordinate the distribution of nutritional assistance to individuals who do not have access due to social distancing restrictions or lack of distribution sites.  Please promote and engage with food distribution programs where appropriate.  
  • VCE is temporarily suspending faculty and staff hiring.  We continue to explore creative ways to move forward with the VCE Summer Internship Program and appreciate the valuable thoughts that have been contributed in this area.

Thank you for your commitment to VCE and the people of Virginia!

Ed and Ray

Good afternoon, colleagues:

Here are the latest updates from VCE administration regarding coronavirus developments.  This and all other communications and resources from administration can be found at the VCE coronavirus webpage.

  • Thank you for participating in the “Ask Ed Anything” session on Thursday.  I appreciate your questions, contributions, and professionalism as we work through this time together.  Going forward, we will host weekly “Ask Ed Anything” sessions to answer questions from the field.  These sessions will be held every Wednesday at 11 a.m. at this Zoom link. Submit anonymous questions at this survey by 10 p.m. the Monday before the meeting.  Questions will also be taken during the session.
  • We would like to learn about the unique subject matter content needs that you are seeing in the field.  To facilitate our ability to connect these needs to program teams and specialists, please share your information needs through this survey link.
  • We are exploring the mechanism for adding the eXtension “Ask an Expert” feature to Unit office websites.  The concept is that questions arising within the Unit would first route to the agents in that Unit for review and response.  We will have more information on this soon.
  • We have received requests for consistent signage to place at entrances to Unit offices communicating our status to clientele.  In response, Zeke Barlow and his staff are developing a template for review by the administrative team that includes welcoming language and communicates our current status.  The signage will have a customizable section where Units can place their alternate contact information.  
  • In order to assist 4-H clubs in meeting the current restrictions for programming and operations, approval for 4-H Club Fund transactions may now take place via email instead of needing original signatures. Please see this memo from Chad Proudfoot, 4-H Organizational Specialist, for more details on this temporary procedural change.
  • Please note that, after today (March 20) the VT Soil Testing Laboratory will no longer be serving walk-in clientele until further notice.  Agents can continue to mail samples but please note that response time will be delayed as outlined in March 16 and 17 e-mail communications from Rory Maguire.
  • For informational purposes and consistent with the theme of helping our communities, please note the following information about blood drives in Virginia.  4,000 canceled blood drives are putting significant strain on the nation's blood supply.  For information on a blood drive taking place near you please visit this link.

Thank you for your patience, creativity, and commitment to VCE and the people of Virginia.  Have a safe weekend!

Ed and Ray and Ed

Colleagues;

Thank you to all who participated in the “Ask Ed Anything” Zoom session today.  We hope many of your questions were answered, or you understood why we don’t have definitive answers to some questions yet.  If you missed it, the recording will soon be posted on the internal COVID-19 website.  We are also keeping the survey open for additional questions, and will respond in our updates as they come in.  We will also do another “Ask Ed” Zoom session in about a week.

Some of the important topics from today are:

  • Teleworking:  District Directors are working with the faculty and staff in the district on the best approaches to teleworking.  There may be different reporting expectations based on whether or not an individual is supported by particular grants or other funds, which require additional documentation.  The important part is flexibility and understanding of circumstances.  Department and AREC faculty and staff should work with their department head or director.
  • Reminder: No gatherings larger than 10.  Minimize face to face as much as possible.
  • Office Closures:  The most frequent circumstance will be that offices are closed to the public.  We must adhere to that requirement.  However, we can work with clientele, but again minimize face to face.  Be creative in virtual delivery and remote support to the community.  ANR agents may need to make farm visits, but arrange to minimize any contact; there are creative ways to do that.  Remember it is not only for our protection, but that of our clientele.
  • Wage Employees:  VT Human Resources is seeking solutions on how to support our wage employees during this time.  As soon as we have something we can share, we will.
  • Students using Eduroam:  We have been asked by the University if we can allow students to use our wifi from parking lots.  We have agreed to have the following listed in the University resources to students. "Eduroam may be available at Virginia Cooperative Extension offices and Agricultural Research and Extension Centers (https://ext.vt.edu/offices.html). Please observe public health guidelines and access these resources from the parking lot, keeping in mind that Eduroam may not be accessible in the parking lots of all offices, and there may be local limitations on using parking areas.”

We are very clear that it may not work everywhere and if there are issues identified by the county/city government, it may not be available.  We made no promises that we have to do it.

  • Schedule past April 30: We really have no idea about when this will end.  Consequently, think about postponing or cancelling any events in May.  We will know more in the coming days, but it is better to err on the safe side.
  • Virtual programs:  We are encouraging agents and specialists to create virtual office hours, chat rooms, etc. to stay connected and provide information and guidance.  This is a good time to explore virtual discussion groups to help convey educational information to clients and help them feel connected and supported.  VT-based specialists, the Associate Directors will be in contact with a schedule from which you will be able to select date/time combinations for delivering Zoom sessions that do not overlap.  VSU specialists please work with Michelle Olgers.  This approach will minimize the chances that programs will be presented at the same times.  Specialists - please note that as the schedule is completed session topics and times will be posted to the VCE coronavirus webpage on your behalf.  Please do not e-mail your session to the listserv.  
  • Telling our story: I know that you care deeply about the communities in which you live and work and many of you will be stepping up to help out in these challenging times. I encourage you to. We also want to hear about such stories. Our Communications team is collecting them to write a story. You can fill out this survey link or you can simply email our communications director Zeke Barlow at zekebarlow@vt.edu

Finally, the number of confirmed cases in Virginia jumped to 94 as of noon today.  This is indeed serious.  So please take care of yourselves and your family, and remember to be kind and grateful for all those who continue to make everyday life possible, the clerks in grocery stores and gas stations, those who are working diligently in our healthcare sector, and those in public safety.  

Stay safe and healthy, and thank you for doing your best to support our communities,

Ed and Ray

Good afternoon, colleagues:

Here are the latest updates from VCE administration regarding coronavirus developments.  This and all other communications and resources from administration can be found at the VCE coronavirus webpage.

  • First, we would like to acknowledge that the quantity and pace of information, changes, and resulting stress and confusion are hard on everyone.  We are aware that as the situation evolves and information changes, people are impacted.  We are striving for consistency in messaging, and these efforts are also impacted by decisions made by Virginia Tech, Virginia State, the Commonwealth of Virginia, health organizations, and other entities.  We will continue to strive to deliver consistent guidance recognizing that the coronavirus situation and accompanying responses are rapidly changing.  We are all in this together. 
  • Public Gatherings: Governor Northam, following guidance from the Center for Disease Control has issued guidance recommending that gatherings greater than 10 people be canceled or postponed.  Therefore, please postpone or cancel gatherings of more than ten people. We strongly suggest that faculty seek alternatives to face-to-face program delivery for all events.  Faculty and staff should not attend non-essential partner group meetings of more than ten people. 
  • Ask Ed Anything: I will be holding a special Ask Ed Anything on Thursday from 11 a.m. to noon to answer any questions you may have about how we are handling HR issues, VCE’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, and how we can help in our local communities. You can watch and participate at this Zoom invite: https://virginiatech.zoom.us/s/913146153  Please submit any questions you’d like answered via this anonymous survey by midnight Wednesday.  Ed will also be fielding questions during the Zoom call.
  • A Message about Advancement at Virginia Tech: This is a time when we want to keep our constituents close and be thoughtful of the messages we convey.  If we stay in touch with our constituents through tough times such as this the connections with those individuals will be stronger when we emerge together on the  other side of the crisis. We will continue to process philanthropic gifts to VCE through our normal processes.  However, as Virginia Cooperative Extension professionals, I ask that we all pause on new solicitations of our donors and friends at this time. When the time comes where we begin soliciting our donors and friends in the future, we will be well served by this action we take today.
  • ARECs:  The ARECs have been closed to the public.  Operations will continue, and they will be providing a place where people normally drop off samples.
  • The internal VCE coronavirus webpage and public-facing “COVID-19 Resources” website https://ext.vt.edu/covid-19updates/resources.html are updated on a daily basis.  Please continue to check these sites for the latest resources.  If you have additional resources to recommend please route that content to the appropriate Associate Director.  The AD will then work with Communications to post.

We know circumstances are constantly changing, and we thank you for your flexibility, patience and commitment to VCE and the people of Virginia.  

Ed and Ray

Good afternoon, colleagues:

Here are the latest updates from VCE administration regarding coronavirus developments.  This and all other communications and resources from administration can be found at the VCE coronavirus webpage

  • Teleworking for field offices:  We authorize all field units to telework.  We encourage you to communicate with your district director your plans and stay connected with them.  Recognizing some people may have challenges with internet access, please prioritize responsibilities within the unit so those who have internet issues still have productive work to do.    Teleworking does not mean staying away from the office entirely, there may be limited use of the office or visits to the office to check mail, pick up or drop off materials, etc.  This is an important time to work together as a team, and share responsibilities across the board to protect yourselves yet serve your community.  We know there are questions regarding leave, etc. We will continue to work with human resources to the minimize any untold consequences, especially for staff, part-time employees and those without internet access.  The district director team are working together to help with guidance and support.  Please note that the ARECs, CALS Departments and VSU are providing guidance to their employees.
  • Ask Ed Anything: I will be holding a special Ask Ed Anything on Thursday at from 11 a.m. to noon to answer any questions you may have about how we are handling HR issues, VCE’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, and how we can help in our local communities. You can watch and participate at this Zoom invite: https://virginiatech.zoom.us/s/913146153

Please submit any questions you’d like answered via this anonymous survey by midnight Wednesday.

I will also be fielding questions during the Zoom call.

  • Working Online Resources:  Please visit:  virtual.extension.org  for seminars and other tools.  One free seminar is at 2 p.m. TODAY.

We know circumstances are constantly changing, and we thank you for your flexibility, patience and commitment to VCE and the people of Virginia. 

Ed and Ray

Good afternoon, colleagues:

Here are the latest updates from VCE administration regarding coronavirus developments.  This and all other communications and resources from administration can be found at the VCE coronavirus webpage

  • Dean Grant has asked that communications to VT CALS and VCE go through the appropriate Associate Dean, Dean or Director of Human Resources.  There is a lot of well-meaning sharing that can create challenges in volume, conflicting messages, etc.  For VCE please send to Ed, Dan or Cathy for consideration.
  • The Center for Disease Control has issued guidance recommending that, for the next eight weeks, organizers throughout the U.S. cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more.  We recommend that all should follow this guidance.  We also strongly suggest that faculty seek alternatives to face-to-face program delivery for all events, and reserve face-to-face for priority or critical needs.
  • In a time of emergency we encourage faculty and staff to focus on what can be done to support the communities in which we live.  Areas where we might be able to help include assisting food insecure families and communities, assisting schools and food pantries with food distribution, serving as volunteer shoppers for senior citizens, and other contributions identified locally.
  • If the local government office closes, the VCE office will be closed as per the authorized closing guideline.  Even so, we support efforts to assist vulnerable populations.  We are gradually getting more clarity around specific leave questions and will share more information as it is developed.  In the meantime, telework arrangements should mirror VT and VSU guidance.  For Virginia Tech employees, even for those employees who are not directly impacted by the closure of public schools, supervisors and department heads are encouraged to arrange for employees to work remotely.  We are currently making these arrangements on a requested basis.  Please work with your supervisor if you feel the need to request a telework arrangement.  Please note that guidance around teleworking continues to evolve and management will continue to stay in touch with their employees during this time.
  • A new public-facing website of VCE resources to assist citizens was created and can be found here.  Please share this on social media and other channels.
  • The Virginia Emergency Support Team (VEST) and Emergency Support Function #11 have been fully activated. 
  • Should someone associated with VCE programming indicate that they have had contact with or have symptoms of the coronavirus, please contact your local health department and follow their guidance.

We will continue to keep you posted as the situation develops.  Thank you for all you do for the citizens of Virginia.

Ed and Ray

Colleagues:

Here are the latest updates from VCE administration regarding coronavirus developments.

  • Out-of-state travel for business purposes has been restricted.  In-state travel, however, is not affected at this time.  For planning purposes, please note that Washington, D.C., is considered out-of-state.
  • In alignment with Governor Northam’s order to close all K-12 schools in Virginia, ALL4-H programming will be suspended from Monday, March 16, through Friday, March 27, at a minimum. This measure is also consistent with the 4-H weather cancellation policy.

    Should school divisions reopen prior to April 30, 2020 local unit 4-H programming may resume with the following restrictions remaining in place: All 4-H activities, regardless of size, at the area, regional, district, statewide, or out-of-state level will be postponed or cancelled. Additionally, all Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia 4-H participation at events or activities where more than 100 participants are expected to gather will be canceled or postponed. This also includes 4-H participation in events hosted by other organizations. These responses are subject to further change.

    This information will be disseminated to all enrolled 4-H families through 4HOnline.
  • Force majeure contractual language, along with a partner letter, have been posted on the VCE coronavirus webpage.
  • We are encouraging creative thought processes in how to continue delivering educational content to audiences during the disruption in face-to-face programming. 
  • For Virginia Tech employees, a regularly updated list of frequently asked questions is located here.

We will continue to keep you posted as the situation develops.

Ed and Ray

Good afternoon:

Our team met this morning to continue decision-making and guidance regarding VCE educational programming given the evolving coronavirus situation, and to translate both university’s requirements to the field.  Here is the latest information.

  • Virginia currently has 17 presumptive positive or confirmed cases of coronavirus and 117 negative tests.  Governor Northam declared a State of Emergency this afternoon that we will review and address in Friday’s update.
  • We have received many questions regarding domestic travel.  We have requested clarification on travel that is specific to Virginia Tech/VCE and will share that in another communication in the very near future.
  • The Virginia Tech and VSU requirement to cancel or postpone events, including 4-H camp onsite registration, where more than 100 participants are expected to gather applies to Virginia Cooperative Extension.  In order to align with many local school systems, 4-H will not participate in or host area, regional, district, statewide, or out-of-state events throughout the restriction period. This impacts events currently planned through April 30 and is effective immediately.  We recognize that there are events taking place after April 30 that are currently being planned.  Please continue planning efforts as the timeline will be continuously evaluated. 
  • Additionally, VCE is encouraging all VCE faculty and staff to personally refrain from attending events with more than 100 people.  Agents and others who routinely travel to meet with the public out in the field are asked to consider if face-to-face meetings are absolutely necessary before traveling.  In many cases a phone call or other type of electronic communication may suffice.
  • We recognize that there are some very specific nuances regarding a number of events during and after this time period and more guidance will be needed.  4-H camp is one example.  A  VCE coronavirus webpage is being established that will be regularly updated by leaders with more detailed program-specific information.  Updates such as this one will be posted and archived on that site. Local unit offices are encouraged to update their websites and social media channels with current unit-specific information on programming.
  • Please note that events scheduled where less than 100 participants are expected may continue at the present time, provided they are not on the VSU campus or Randolph Farm.  Agents, Program Assistants, specialists, and staff members continue to make informed decisions about whether to proceed with previously planned local events or not.  (Note that guidance regarding state and international events will come from the appropriate program leadership at the state level).  If you decide to continue hosting an event, then we encourage you to communicate to clients that they should use good judgment when making the decision whether or not to participate.  This includes following Virginia Department of Health guidelines.  We strongly encourage folks to consider alternative mechanisms of providing education and information to limit the need for gatherings.
  • Faculty and staff engaged in program planning that involve contractual obligations after April 30 are strongly advised to include a force majeure clause that allows VT/VSU/VCE to terminate without penalty in event the emergency conditions continue.  The clause will be posted to the VCE coronavirus webpage .
  • We have drafted a letter that faculty and staff can share with local partners where necessary to help communicate the rationale and support for program cancellation.  The letter will be posted to the VCE coronavirus webpage .
  • Virginia Tech and VSU requirements regarding international travel apply to Virginia Cooperative Extension.  This includes 4-H international youth exchanges, both inbound and outbound programs.  Please refer to the VT coronavirus webpage for further details.
  • Please begin tracking your anticipated financial losses from program cancellation, if applicable.  We may need this information at a later date to the benefit of units and programs.

We are committed to providing the best service and information we can to help you carry out your mission under these challenging circumstances.  We will distribute another communication Friday, March 13.  Thank you for all you do for the people of Virginia.

Sincerely,

Ed and Ray

Dear Colleagues,

Virginia Cooperative Extension is committed to ensuring the health and wellbeing of our faculty, staff, and stakeholders and wants to help our community as it deals with the coronavirus (COVID-19).

As such, VCE has formed a team to discuss our programming and operational approach during the coronavirus pandemic. The team, made up of members from both VSU and VT, met this morning and plans to meet regularly hereafter to stay current with this rapidly evolving situation.

As you may know, there are now nine confirmed cases of coronavirus in Virginia, with additional cases in neighboring states. Although the risk of contracting the virus presently remains low, we wanted to share guidance to assist you in your decision-making process related to Extension programming and operations to minimize the risk to you and your program participants.

  • Virginia Tech maintains a website containing recommendations for minimizing the spread of COVID19 and updates on how the university is handling the situation. The site is regularly updated and contains links to resources from the Virginia Department of Health and Center for Disease Control, among other sources. The Virginia Department of Health site includes guidance for steps to follow before, during, and after large scale events, as well as resources relevant to educational institutions, communities, and more.
  • Due to the rapidly evolving and situational nature of COVID19, agents, specialists, and staff members are currently empowered to make their own informed decisions about whether to proceed with previously planned local events or not. (Note that guidance regarding state and international events will come from the appropriate program leadership at the state level). Those that decide to cancel local events will be supported in those decisions. Please consult with your supervisor if necessary for input in deciding whether to cancel or continue a program.
  • If you decide to continue hosting an event, then we encourage you to communicate to clients that they should use good judgment when making the decision whether or not to participate. This includes staying home if one is demonstrating symptoms of illness or is considered to be a high-risk population.
  • Recognize that decisions regarding program continuation / cancellation may need to be made and communicated to clientele on comparatively short notice.  As a result, please ensure that you have current contact information for volunteers, collaborators, and program participants to facilitate communications about event status.  We encourage updating Unit office websites to reflect program closures and cancellations in addition to your normal communication channels.
  • Remember that faculty in affected areas can explore offering virtual events where feasible.
  • Regarding the 4-H Youth International Exchanges, the State 4-H Office is working closely with Virginia Tech Global Education and States’ 4-H International to make decisions related to 4-H youth international travel including inbound and outbound exchanges.  Additional announcements will be made concerning the impact on summer exchange programming.
  • For a discussion of 4-H Camp please refer to the e-mail distributed by Sam Fisher, 4-H Camping Specialist, on March 6.  The health and safety of our faculty, staff, and constituents are the highest priority for all programs whether unit based or 4-H Center based.  We are monitoring this situation and discussions are on-going.  We understand that you may be receiving questions from parents regarding refunds as you register youth for camp.  Please share with those parents that we continue to monitor the situation and our number one concern is the health and safety of youth.
  • We will be meeting with HR to discuss leave options for employees who have, or have families in the same household, with suppressed immune systems.
  • We will provide further guidance regarding office closures if/when that becomes necessary.  In the meantime, we will continue with the approach that if the local government is open, the Extension office is open (and vice versa) and any Extension programming may continue if the organizer deems it appropriate.

We will do our best to provide you with timely information to support your decision-making, and we look forward to being back in touch soon.

Thank you,

Ed and Ray
M. Ray McKinnie, Ph. D.
1890 Extension Administrator
Dean, College of Agriculture