COVID-19 on the rise in Virginia; so is ‘social distancing’

by Jackie Nunnery

Fearing extended home quarantine, shoppers emptied shelves of staples at Walmart (above) and other local stores as early as March 12. Stores are attempting to restock as supplies arrive. Photo by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi.

KILMARNOCK—With thousands of cases nationwide, including over 60 cases and two deaths in Virginia, management of the COVID-19 outbreak has gone from containment to mitigation of its spread. Governments, businesses and schools have modified schedules or closed entirely to reduce contact among individuals.

It’s been a rapidly changing situation since the first case was diagnosed in Virginia on March 7. Less than a week later, on March 12, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in response to the spread, banning official travel by state employees, implementing telework options and canceling all state conferences and large events.

And the situation is continually evolving.

Area schools were receiving guidance from the health department, which Lancaster school superintendent Dan Russell detailed at the last school board meeting March 10. “We have been in constant communication with the health department and monitoring Virginia Department of Education information and developed a plan within the division,” he said.

In addition to extra posters reminding everyone to wash their hands and ensuring hand sanitizer dispensers were always full, the schools ordered additional disinfectant and called in additional part-time help to make sure surfaces such as desktops and doorknobs were cleaned regularly.

The district also was advised to postpone a planned field trip to Washington, D.C., “not as much out of fear for our students but that they could be carriers, and we are the oldest community in the state. It’s very fluid and we may have to ramp up our plan. We’re working in conjunction with superintendents in the region and I do hope to have a letter to go home to parents to explain where we are,” he said.

Just three days later, on March 13, Gov. Northam announced the closure of all schools in the Commonwealth for at least two weeks.

“We recognize this decision places burdens on…