Fluvanna County has its first confirmed case of the coronavirus, the seventh such confirmed case reported in the Thomas Jefferson Health District, and Albemarle County police officials confirmed a staff member has been diagnosed as having the virus.
“Last night, my department learned that one of our employees tested positive for COVID-19,” Albemarle Police Chief Ron Lantz wrote on the department’s Facebook page Friday afternoon. “I wanted to share this with the community because I have a request: We need every one of you to practice social distancing, wash your hands and follow all other guidance from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] right now.”
It is not yet clear if any other public-safety employees have been tested or quarantined.
Lantz said his officers may wear additional protective equipment when responding to calls or ask people to step outside to talk, in an effort to thwart the virus.
“We all play a role in preventing the spread of COVID-19,” Lantz wrote. “You do yours and we’ll do ours.”
Eric Dahl, Fluvanna’s county administrator, echoed Lantz in a prepared statement regarding the positive test of a Fluvanna resident.
“The health and safety of Fluvanna residents is foremost on my mind,” Dahl said. “It is the duty of every resident to follow recommended guidelines, limit interactions with others, and practice good hygiene. Social distancing is effective at slowing the spread, and the right thing to do.”
The Virginia Department of Health website currently only shows the one Charlottesville case announced Monday, but the local health district has reported three cases in Albemarle County, three in Charlottesville and one in Fluvanna County.
The district also covers Greene and Louisa counties, which so far have no confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Sentara Martha Jefferson also confirmed Friday that the hospital had two positive tests for COVID-19.
The health district’s spokeswoman, Kathryn Goodman, said the numbers are current as of 11 a.m. Friday.
“We are conducting thorough investigations for each case and will be contacting individuals who may have been exposed,” she said, also noting that VDH website numbers are updated daily at noon but may or may not reflect local cases right away, depending on when the local cases are reported.
The pandemic has spurred the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to change its methods of operations, including suspending public fingerprinting.
“We have restricted the entrance of our building to anyone who falls into the following criteria: anyone who has visited China, South Korea, any European countries, or any other high-risk country as defined by the Centers for Disease Control within the last 14 days,” the release states.
The department also is restricting access to anyone who has traveled in states that have had widespread community transmission of COVID-19. Those include California, Washington and New York.
Also restricted are persons who have been asked to quarantine, isolate or self-monitor by a doctor, hospital or health agency and those diagnosed with, or who have had contact with anyone diagnosed with, COVID-19 or who have a fever, cough or shortness of breath.
“If a deputy responds to your residence, he/she will ask you to exit your residence to speak with you,” sheriff’s officials wrote in the release. “They will try to remain at a 6-foot distance, if possible. Deputies will handle some calls by telephone but will respond, if necessary.”
Sunday bus service ended
Charlottesville Area Transit officials on Friday cited low Sunday ridership due to the public’s COVID-19 response in announcing it is eliminating Sunday bus service until further notice. Buses will instead be deep-cleaned on Sundays, officials said.
CAT buses will now run from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The virus, the need for people to restrict social contact and an edict from Gov. Ralph Northam to limit gatherings to fewer than 10 people also has forced the cancellation of the 2020 Dogwood Festival, according to its board of directors.
All events except the online auction have been canceled for the year, officials said.
“It’s definitely put a halt to us, but if we can’t have our carnival, it really isn’t the same,” said Dogwood Festival Treasurer Jenne Garrett. “It’s the first time we’ve had to cancel everything. It took a lot of heartbreak and thought and working with contracts to make sure everything was covered. We’re so thankful that the community has been supportive.”
Garrett said dates for the online auction will be announced later.
“The auction benefits the Kindness Café and Play in the Brooks Family YMCA, which is also closed,” Garrett said. “We’ve received a lot of donations from people and we’ll support it when it opens up again.”
According to the festival’s Facebook page, anyone who has purchased tickets or sponsored tables will receive a full refund by contacting the festival at email@example.com and including name and address.
Impact on businesses
Viral fears and restrictions continued to take a toll on restaurants in the area. Owners of The Cavalier Diner, who have been in the restaurant business for several decades, cited restrictions and social distancing as the reason they are closing.
“I hope it’s not for long, but I really don’t know,” said Aristea “Risty” Vlavianos, who owns and operates the diner with her husband, Sal. “We tried to go with delivery, but it’s just not enough. If I could make expenses, I’d stay open. We hope to be back.”
Vlavianos said the diner stayed open as long as possible.
“Sal and I tried to stay open for our staff and regulars but the situation has become untenable,” she said.
Social distancing and restrictions have crippled businesses across the country. The U.S. Small Business Administration late Thursday issued a disaster declaration for Virginia. That declaration makes federal low-interest loans available to businesses hit by the virus-fighting measures.
The Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides working capital loans of up to $2 million to assist businesses reeling with temporary revenue loss.
The loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other expenses. To submit a loan application, go to disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.
Though no COVID-19 cases have been reported in Louisa County, officials decided to close the county offices to the public beginning Monday. County staff will work on a rotating basis or remotely to serve the public online and over the phone.
Public access to the county office building will be restricted to the Sheriff’s Office/Emergency Services foyer for those functions. Courts will remain open with limited services.
The Virginia Department of Transportation also closed its offices to walk-in visitors as of 5 p.m. Friday.
“This includes all district offices, residencies, area headquarters and the agency’s Central Office in Richmond,” VDOT officials said. “The agency will implement a visitor-by-appointment process to ensure essential services and operations continue.”
Albemarle County closed all county playgrounds and pavilions and limited dog parks to 10 humans at a time, although the number of dogs was not limited.
Trails and open spaces remain open, but the county recommended people keep at least a 6-foot distance between them while using the facilities.
More meetings canceled
In Charlottesville, city officials indefinitely postponed the City Council’s budget meetings set for next week. All other previously scheduled public meetings of city boards and commissions also are cancelled next week.