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Graduations, campus classes canceled by coronavirus shock college-town economy
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The coronavirus pandemic has turned vibrant college towns across the U.S. into vacant ones.
This weekend was supposed to be one the busiest of the year for businesses in Blacksburg, Va., as parents, grandparents and well-wishers converged on the town to celebrate the 2020 graduates of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Instead, the city of 45,000 remains in quiet repose, pining for its students to return. It has been a long two months for Blacksburg and other communities like it, as the pandemic robbed them of their main source of economic vitality.
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What is happening in Blacksburg is playing out in cities from Ithaca, N.Y., to Pullman, Wash., where the pandemic hasn't only shut down many businesses but also emptied out college campuses. The losses are especially painful in places that have leaned on universities to lure well-paying jobs and industry to communities that might otherwise lack both.
"We've always had the luxury of being insulated from the normal ebbs and flow of the economy," said Mike Soriano, a Virginia Tech grad who owns four Blacksburg restaurants, including Champs Downtown Sports Bar & Cafe. The university moved its spring and summer terms to online classes. "And with the uncertainty of the fall, it's made things difficult to project," he added.