What you have been sending us, what we know in response, and where we can keep digging

As COVID-19 has evolved into a global pandemic, with cases in Virginia, we have created a page for updates and resources.

While we continue to serve you by looking into what this means locally and what our region can do to keep us overall, and especially our most vulnerable community members, safe, some of you have reached out to us to offer your insights or as questions that we want to solve for you.

Perhaps you have a question similar to something someone else already asked? Perhaps we have answered it, or are still working on it. Check out some the feedback below (some are edited for length):

Ruth D.: Thanks. My main Q right now is, when will there be enough tests available for all who want/need to be tested? We are walking around in the dark these days.

Mary L.: Many thanks for your coverage. I’m 72 and thinking very carefully about where I go every day. I  stay away from crowded places. My goal is to avoid the gym and work out here at home, where I have a bench and a rack of weights. YouTube chair yoga videos are also a big help. I’m also visiting a nursery every day to flee my semi-hermit existence. Fresh air, few people, lovely plants—they keep me sane.

But I keep reading conflicting reports about how long the virus survives on various surfaces. The last I read said three hours in the air, four hours on copper, longer on other surfaces. Do you have any definitive information on this?

Sheila H.: I would appreciate it if in many of your missives which reach the multitudes you would explicitly remind people to check on their elderly neighbors, people who live alone or single parents with a bunch of kids, etc.  We need to take care of each other.  Younger, healthier people could protect older, less healthy people by letting them stay safe at home while the younger people run errands for them – like picking up prescriptions, bread runs, etc.  We’ll feel better knowing we are helping individuals who need help.  They’ll feel better knowing someone cares and they don’t have to be afraid to venture out, maybe on a bus.  …  (It would be really nice, wouldn’t it, if we can develop such habits and maybe continue them after the crisis?)

Roy V.: As the current chair of the Charlottesville chapter of the VA Restaurant Lodging and Travel Assn, I can report we are very concerned on many fronts.

As an industry, the hospitality industry is one of the largest private employers in the area.

As a community, our independent restaurant industry operates on a very small margin and most times, the owner is totally involved in daily operations.

When visitors are not here, when destination weddings are not well attended, when festivals and events are cancelled, as group events are delayed or just cancelled, the most impacted group in our community is those that work in the hospitality industry.

The restaurant community is well prepared for this condition. Our industry has been and will be prepared to address food safety, hygienic cleanliness of the surfaces, and management of staff to ensure that those who are not feeling well stay home.

The restaurant community trains and is certified to manage airborne transmission of influenza and colds and other seasonal illnesses. During this time, extra attention is made to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for our guests.

The community can help. With the loss of a significant amount of visitors, men and women that work in this industry can’t make up for lost days of business. We encourage the community, as they feel comfortable, take their partner or friend out for lunch or share a nice dinner at one of our great local independent restaurants.

Remember that when you go to a locally owned restaurant, that income stays here in town too.

I encourage you to let you neighborhood restaurateur know you support them and you want to help them survive during this challenging time. We don’t know how long this will last, but we do know that unless the community does support our hospitality industry, we may not be here once this is over.

Pamela B.: Have you queried the athletic club, ACAC, or the YMCA about temporarily closing? One cannot help touching and retouching surfaces, not to mention exercise classes in close quarters.

Robin T.: Here’s something you might want to look into in regards to COID-19. At the request of my employer I asked my primary care provider about getting tested. (I had recently traveled to Australia and Tom Hanks, of all people, just tested positive in Queensland.)

My provider, part of the Sentara group, scheduled me for the testing but couldn’t tell me how much it would cost. They pointed me at my insurance company who pointed me right back to the provider. … This is, of course, an inhibitor to people getting tested.

Janine F.: … It would be good to know how many tests are being administered in Charlottesville and if the three day delay means possibly people being sent home and going back into the community infected.    Updated numbers of how many people in the area have been tested, how many patients have been seen and how full local hospitals are would be good to know.

Finally, it would be good to know ways that people can assist the elderly.   I have run into so many elderly people in CVS or grocery store with handwritten lists  to get hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol and only finding empty shelves.   There are a lot of elderly retirees in this community.  Is JABA or senior center or any other community group seeking volunteers to help in specific ways. … Maybe a story on how organizations that assist the poor all year will be impacted and what community members can do to help.

Arthur K.: The best information you can supply relates to what the coronavirus 19 symptoms really are, and who is at greatest risk. It’s crazy for a university to close…filled with people of the most healthy age group, when public schools remain open. Those at greatest risk are in the area nursing homes and progressive care facilities. Those organizations are totally ill-equipped to deal with this health event. Death rates are also irrelevant, unless compared with the “normal” death rates experienced each month. And the area homeless and vagrants are probably beyond hep.

Also, the CDC publishes statistics for annual flu-related deaths over at least the past decade. It is nor uncommon for 35 million people to contact the flu in the USA annually, resulting in 35,000 or more annual flu-related deaths. In 2018, as I recall, that number exceeded 60,000 deaths.The media have been totally irresponsible in creating a panic over this latest event. Bodies are not dropping in the streets.

The worst problem lies ahead and is entirely economic. This world-wide panic will have a lasting impact on a huge number of industries, starting with the cruise industry, airlines, tourism, food distribution, education, etc. Universities will soon discover that students can learn quite effectively on-line, rather than spend 65K per year on tuition. Etc. etc.

Local small businesses will fail, beginning with small restaurants, tourism-dependent shops, etc.

I wish you well in your efforts to communicate, but please be calm and rational.

Beth B.: How do we get the word out on social distancing? People need to stay home. They don’t get it. I have acquaintances in their 70s who still think that there is no local risk.

The young people I know think that this virus won’t hurt them, so they are going about their business — and becoming virus reservoirs for the whole community.

However, my friends from Italy tell me that this virus is far worse than our media coverage is letting on. Leadership and messaging can help people understand that they need to cancel nonessential excursions from home.

Have you seen the graph comparing the deaths due to the Spanish flu in Philadelphia (where large events were permitted) versus St Louis (where there was a strict cancellation of group events)? It conveys how social distancing is effective at lessening the virus’ burden. Maybe that graphic will help people understand.

China and other Asian nations got this virus to abate by keeping everyone home as much as possible. We don’t need to panic–just stay home if at all possible.

Links to more information and updates related to some of these questions can be found on our main COVID-19 page.