Reporters and editors note: The Virginia Tech media relations office has a number of story opportunities connected to the upcoming Independence Day holiday, see below. Thanks for your consideration!

African-American perspectives on the 4th of July

The murder of George Floyd and other Black men and women in the twenty-first century is not an isolated event; rather it is the continuation of a historic process with roots reaching long before the nation’s founding. Students of history at Virginia Tech have created a website, tracking African American perspectives on Independence Day over the years.  A website, African American Fourth of July, summarizes the findings and analysis of Virginia Tech students who researched seven historical African American newspapers to trace the meanings behind Independence Day. 

“At times, the holiday seemed like a mockery,” history professor and project coordinator Brett Shadle said. “The day’s ideals were great, but not a reality for African Americans. People wanted to talk about life and liberty, but at the same time lynchings were taking place. So, they could celebrate the ideals, yet mourn their ongoing political exclusion.”

Tips for easing stress during busy holiday weekends

While July 4th celebrations will look different this year during the coronavirus pandemic, vacation goers should still be mindful of their interactions with hospitality workers during this stressful and busy time, says Virginia Tech travel and tourism expert Mahmood Khan. Read more here

Backyard grilling safety during the holiday weekend

As Americans observe safe July 4th traditions during the current pandemic, Virginia Tech food safety expert Robert Williams has advice for those grilling at backyard cookouts.  Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. However, it remains important to practice good handwashing before preparing, handling and cooking food.

“You should always handle and prepare food safely, including keeping raw meat separate from other foods, refrigerating perishable foods, and cooking meat to the right temperature to kill harmful germs,” said Williams.  “Unfortunately, for many it is also a time of E. coli poisoning and Salmonella infection. Luckily, by following a few basic food safety tips consumers can make sure their holiday fun isn’t tainted by food poisoning.”

Fireworks and dogs don’t mix on Independence Day

With many community firework displays canceled because of the pandemic, backyard fireworks are expected to be bigger and louder than ever. For the family dog, fireworks can trigger fear and anxiety similar to a panic attack. A third of all dogs will suffer from noise anxiety connected to suddenness of the sound.

“To some degree, their ears are more sensitive. They pick up a wider range of sounds than we do,” said veterinarian Mark D. Freeman at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. “Sudden very loud sounds can cause dogs to be very frightened, and with the continuation of noise, it’s sort of a ramping up effect.  The more noise they are exposed to, the more reactive they become.”

“Every year near the 4th of July, we see a significant increase in the number of traumatic injuries to dogs, specifically related to the fear response associated with fireworks.  Dogs have jumped through glass windows and off decks and balconies, chewed through doors and walls, and many get hit by cars when they panic and run away from the noise.  Unless you know for a fact that your dog has been desensitized and is not afraid of loud noises, I would take steps to keep them safe.”

Public health expert offers tips for summer travel and family vacations during COVID-19

Many people rely on travel and vacation to decompress and take care of their mental health, which is especially important now during the pandemic. Summer travel will however bring some challenges this year for vacation goers to protect themselves from COVID-19, says Virginia Tech public health expert Lisa M. Lee.

“Traveling this summer presents challenges. The fundamental preventive measures, however, are not that different. Maintain at least 6 feet - more if exercising - away from others, wear a face covering in public spaces, avoid touching your face, and wash your hands often.”