COVID-19 Emergency

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The COVID-19 Emergency is an ongoing crisis to contain with the novel coronavirus that has impacted all aspects of life in the greater Charlottesville region. People are being asked to limit contacts with others to stop the infection from expanding to the point where hospitals are overwhelmed. Virginia is under a state of emergency. Governor Ralph Northam has urged Virginians to gather in groups no larger than 10 to help avoid "community spread." [1] [2]

Local schools are closed until further notice by order of Governor Ralph Northam. [3] Albemarle County will stay closed through at least April 10. Many businesses and schools have closed and people are urged to limit contact with other people through a phenomenon called "social-distancing." Charlottesville has suspended tax collections for the time being. [4]

There are at least four known cases of COVID-19 in Charlottesville as of March 19, 2020. [4] The first case is a woman in her late 50's who is believed to have contracted the virus while traveling. [5] [6]

Philanthropic and volunteer efforts have come together to prepare for what could be a sustained period of disruption. Others are finding ways to help others cope with financial impacts related to the closing of many businesses to contain the spread. This includes arranging volunteers to help look after children now that schools will be closed.

Several groups are forming to help coordinate assistance for people in need. These are direct links:

Data is released by the Virginia Department of Health once a day, making the impact of the health crisis not fully known. Still, people are encouraged to limit contact with other people for the foreseeable future. In additional to state directives, the Centers for Disease are calling for a nationwide prohibition of gatherings of more than 50 people. [7]

The Virginia Department of Health has set up a hotline for the Thomas Jefferson Health District at 434-972-6261.


Ambox notice.png This article documents a current event. Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.

Latest

  • There are 94 cases in Virginia and two confirmed deaths as of March 18, 2020, up from 41 on Sunday. [8] The number could increase this week as additional capacity from private labs comes online. [9] [10]
  • There are now four cases in the Thomas Jefferson Health District. These are not reflected in the 94 cases reported on March 19 [11]
  • Charlottesville has suspended tax collections for the time being [4]
  • The State Corporation Commission has "directed regulated electric, natural gas and water companies in Virginia to suspend service disconnections until the coronavirus outbreak subsides." [12]

Local responses

Albemarle County and Charlottesville declared local emergencies on March 12, 2020 in order to help coordinate public safety efforts to contain the spread of the disease. This gives officials more flexibility to conduct business. It has resulted in the temporary halt of public meetings as well as the delay of the adoption of the FY21 budget in Albemarle County. [13] [14] On March 19, Charlottesville announced it would suspend collection of taxes for the time being.

Albemarle supervisors received a briefing at their meeting on March 17, 2020. [15]


  • The University of Virginia will remain closed all spring and will not hold Final Exercises (graduation) this year [16] [17]
  • Governor Ralph Northam urged Virginians on March 17 to restrict gatherings to ten people or less in order to halt community spread [1] Virginians over the age of 65 are urged to self-quarantine.
  • Virginia DMV offices were ordered closed by Governor Ralph Northam on March 17
  • the first is one known case of COVID-19 in Charlottesville as of March 16, 2020. The patient is a woman in her late 50's who is believed to have contracted the virus while traveling. Her test was processed by a commercial lab. She is an employee of the Women's Center at the University of Virginia and the facility is being sterilized.


Albemarle County

Albemarle County is implementing a multi-phased plan to respond to the incident. An Incident Management team is coordinating a response. [18] The Board of Superiors will delay the budget process until after the crisis is over. [19]

Supervisors received a briefing on March 18 and extended the date to adopt a final budget to May 14. [20]

The Town of Scottsville is following Albemarle's plan. [21] They have declared their own local emergency.

Albemarle Board of Supervisors will delay adoption of the budget for FY21 past the scheduled date of April 20 [19] The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will hold a budget work session on March 17 and a regular meeting on March 18 but the public is encouraged to watch from home [19]


Charlottesville

Charlottesville has closed all indoor recreation facilities and park rentals, and has also canceled all public meetings until further notice except the March 16 City Council. The City Council meeting scheduled for March 16 will continue and the city will pilot a new way of allowing public input. [22] The city added further restrictions on March 16 and will only be open for essential personnel beginning on March 17.

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority has announced a moratorium on all evictions effective in [23]

The customer service window for the Charlottesville Police Department is closed until further notice. [24] The Police Department has also modified its responses to non-emergency calls. [25]

Charlottesville City Schools began distributing food to low-income students on March 17. [26] Weekday distribution of meals will take place between 10 am and noon at ten locations throughout the city. [27]

Surrounding counties

Augusta Health in Fishersville has indicated they are prepared for an outbreak in the Shenandoah Valley. [28]

Impact on school children

The announcement of the closure of schools on March 13 immediately prompted many to begin to think about what to do for children for whom school lunches may be the only regular mealtimes. That's potentially thousands of young people in Albemarle and Charlottesville. The city school system is planning on a meals program. The PB&J Fund is also seeking volunteers and donations and will distribute food on March 16. [29] People have stepped up to volunteer for Monday. [30]

Charlottesville City Schools are looking for volunteers to sign up to help distribute food beginning March 17. [31] Albemarle will offer the same service at several locations throughout the county beginning on March 17.

The federal Centers for Disease Control have a website on recommended school policies

Resources for parents

Effects on local business

Authorities have called for social distancing which immediately began to have an effect on people moving around the community but also prompted a debate over whether enough people are heeding the call. That began to change on Sunday, March 15 as restaurants such as Rapture and Zocalo closed in advance of potential government-mandated shutdowns. [19] Others remain open for delivery.

  • Many businesses remained open on March 13 and March 14, but are encouraging customers to maintain a distance between themselves. While many office workers have been told to work from home, retail employees do not have that luxury. [33]
  • The cancellation of the Virginia Festival of the Book has had a ripple effect on businesses such as New Dominion Bookshop, which purchased additional stock for customers who will not be visiting Charlottesville this spring. [33]
  • State Farm is evaluating the possibility of its staffers working from home. CFA Institute is doing the same thing. WillowTree is among the companies that have told their employees to work from home.
  • Ragged Mountain Running Shop decided to close effective on March 13 but the owners said they would continue online sales and delivery [34]
  • Many retail stores on the Downtown Mall began posting signs on March 15 saying they would close until further notice. [35] These include Blue Whale Books, O'Suzannah, Rock Paper Scissors and J. Fenton TOO.
  • The Jefferson Madison Regional Library closed at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 16, 2020 for further notice and operated on a limited schedule on Sunday, March 15, 2020. [36] University of Virginia libraries are open but on a modified schedule. [37]


Restaurants

  • Charlottesville 29 urges people to order gift cards from restaurants to support them in the short-term [38]
  • Another website called Support Cville has been created to be an active directory of how to help restaurant workers. Support Cville website
  • A Go Fund Me account was launched to help local restaurant workers who will be affected by the shutdown of regular business [https://www.gofundme.com/f/charlottesville-restaurant-community/donate (Link to Go Fund Me Page) [39] This effort has also launched a Facebook page.
  • The owner of Rapture wrote in a Facebook post on the afternoon of March 15 that the restaurant would close indefinitely. "I am doing this because it is irresponsible to continue to offer a venue for people to interact socially and to therefore provide an environment for COVID-19 to spread. Its spread, the consequence for human life, and the economy, is inevitable. But each person needs to step up now, and begin to engage in the only behavior that will turn the tide on this: self-isolating."
  • Some restaurants remained open on March 16, but some began to close throughout the day. Blue Moon Diner opted to close that afternoon. [40]

Churches

Many places of worship did not hold services on March 15 to help prevent the spread of the norel coronavirus. Those that meet in public schools already knew they could not hold services because of rules that prohibited meetings of up to 100 people. That included the Charlottesville Community Church. [41] Others such as First Presbyterian Church have suspended all activities through March 27. [42] Other institutions such as the Church of the Incarnation held services but with precautions.

State impacts

Attorney General Mark Herring asked the State Corporation Commission in an emergency petition to require utility companies to halt disconnects for non-payment. [43] Dominion announced the same day they would suspend disconnections. [44]

The Virginia Employment Commission has prepared information for people who have been laid off or will be laid off in the coming weeks. A person has to actually be laid off or had hours reduced before they are eligible to apply for benefits. The maximum weekly benefit amount in Virginia is $378. [45]

Testing

One issue is how the Virginia Department of Health is coming up with the figures for confirmed cases. On Tuesday, March 17, the number edged up to 67 out of 1,027 official tests. That number was up from 41 from the day before, when Northam had announced the first death from COVID-19.

The person overseeing the state's response to the pandemic is Dr. Norm Oliver, the Virginia Health Commissioner. On March 15, he said the number of cases will be increasing.

"When we identify a case we do what we call contact investigation and we are looking into hundreds of contacts of these cases to trace down any new cases and to isolate them when we find them. We do know there will be new cases," Oliver said.

Oliver said officials are concerned most with the peninsula region where there were eight cases and about 300 contacts that were being investigated as of Sunday, March 16.

Oliver said the state lab had between 500 and 600 tests available as of Sunday afternoon, and private labs are also providing testing to people in Virginia.

"Many tests right now are pending and we will keep you informed as new results come in," Oliver said.

Henry Graff, a former NBC29 reporter who now works for WTVR in Richmond, pressed for more information on the number of tests.

The tests right now are certified by the state Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services. Here's the director, Doctor Denise Toney.

"With respect to test kits, we have recently updated our numbers and we have the capacity to perform tests up to 370 to 470 individuals," Toney said." We have orders that have already been placed with CDC and we are hopeful that we will get additional test kits next week and we are also looking into other ways that we can optimize the number of tests that we can provide for the Commonwealth."

Governor Northam realized that Doctor Toney had forgotten a piece of information.

"The testing that is conducted at the state lab is performed in close consultation with the Virginia Department of Health and testing at our facility is only done on those individuals that the Health Department has investigated and has approved at our facility. There are other individuals within the Commonwealth that are receiving testing and much of that testing is being done at the private sector." [9]

The first case in Charlottesville came through a test processed by a commercial laboratory. [5]

This section will be updated throughout the day to reflect new information from Governor Ralph Northam's March 17, 2020 press conference.

Price gouging

The Attorney's General Office is seeking information on anyone taking advantage of the crisis to raise prices. The declaration of a state emergency triggered provisions "designed to protect consumers from paying exorbitant prices for necessary goods and services during an emergency." A hotline has been set up at 800-552-9963 or information can be submitted via online form. [46]

Timeline


Cancellations

Media Resources

Local Resources

Health resources

(CDC Video on Coronavirus

Medical capacity

One of the reasons why the social distancing protocol has been put into place is to limit the impact on the medical system which could be overwhelmed if hospitalizations are required.

The University of Virginia Health System has 612 beds. [64]

Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital has 176 beds. [65]

One local ER nurse questioned in whether the hospital network is ready. [66]

Global resources

References

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External Links