COVID-19’s impact, in Salem residents own words

by Shawn Nowlin

Cyclists getting in some exercise over the weekend.

Like all residents in Salem, Mac & Bob’s co-owner Bob Rotanz is adjusting to a new normal because of COVID-19.

The closing of so many businesses due to the coronavirus inevitably means that many people are going to lose their job. For Rotanz, he had to lay off all of his servers and bartenders for the foreseeable future. Until the restaurant reopens, he is hopeful that their unemployment benefits make a huge difference.

Salem recently announced new park restrictions. While the Greenway and walking trails remain open, strict social distancing requirements must be followed. At this time, the parks shall only be used for biking, walking, running, boating or hiking.
All business travel has been suspended, and only essential capital purchases are allowed until the end of the current fiscal year on June 30. During Spring Break, April 6 through April 13, there were no school meal deliveries. On April 14, deliveries are expected to resume.
Salem residents can request an application for absentee ballot from the registrar’s office, or by downloading it online. The application for absentee ballot may also be mailed or faxed to the registrar’s office. Said a city spokesperson, “Any registered voter who expects to be out of the city on Election Day, is confined to a penal institution other than a convicted felon or cannot go to the polls because of a physical illness or disability may vote absentee.”
The times have called for social distancing, self-isolation and mostly staying home. While an inconvenience, John Saunders understands why the decisions are being made. One of the things the councilmember is struggling with is figuring out how to help local businesses without close contact.
No one definitively knows what the peak of COVID-19 will be, but many believe that things will get worse before they get better. If everyone does their part and listens to the health professionals, Hunter Holliday, a candidate for Salem City Council, strongly believes that the community can collectively expedite the coronavirus timeline.
Governor Northam is holding regularly scheduled briefings at 2 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to provide Virginians with the latest updates. The City of Salem maintains and updates a website ( that people can access for the most up to date information.
Several Salem residents were asked how COVID-19 has impacted them and their loved ones. This is how they responded.

“COVID-19 has put a damper on sports photography due to all of the cancellations. I work part-time at the Salem Red Sox which is currently postponing their season so it’s put me out of two part-time jobs I usually do on the side. As a community, I think the best thing we can do is to adhere to the guidelines and requirements put in place for social distancing. I understand it’s not desirable to stay locked up in the house for extremely long periods of time, but in the end it is in all of our best interest and raises the likelihood of this ending sooner,” – Aaron Doyle

“All my daughters are grown and out of the house, so it’s just me and wife at home.  Almost all my time is devoted to keeping our restaurant up and running under this ever-changing situation.  We have curbside service and it’s doing surprisingly well.  Unfortunately, we had to lay off all of our servers and bartenders. It wasn’t fun, but they should ok with unemployment benefits until we open up again.  As long as everyone follows the governor’s guidelines, I feel it will translate well in our community as far as how many cases we will see,” – Bob Rotanz

“Why is the federal response so shoddy? Why do the states have to outbid each other for PPEs? Those are the questions that I have. People are still behaving like there is no problem, which makes

Photos by Shawn Nowlin
Teresa Baga doing yardwork in front of her house.

everything worse,” – Gerry Ciaffone

“I have Crohn’s Disease which is an inflammatory disease of the intestines. For the better part of the last four weeks, I have been home. I think we should leave the questions to the experts because there are too many unknowns at this point. COVID-19 has impacted my job because the office is closed to the community. I am encouraging people to stay home as much as possible, keep the proper social distancing standard and wear mask and gloves when you have to go out,” – Bill Jones

“There have been numerous changes at home. More home-cooked meals and yet still trying to support local businesses through evening pick-ups. College work for my daughter is now done totally online which she has adjusted to pretty easily. The daily struggle is to try to figure out varying ways to help our businesses and neighbors without close contact.  At work I receive thorough and complete information on the COVID -19 virus situation. Our city administration staff is excellent at providing the status of the local, state and federal guidelines and procedures we need to consider,” – John Saunders

“I spent the last two weeks out of the house at Salem Motor Lofts due to our daughter returning from Kyrgyzstan and having a health issue. All tournaments and events have been cancelled and much of the time, I am working remotely. I think the best thing we can do is distance ourselves from each other by avoiding groups and support our local restaurants by taking out food,” – Carey Harveycutter

“My parents have been buying groceries for my grandparents to help keep them home so they do not catch anything. The daycare that I work at is still open. We have been following all of the social distancing rules and trying to provide care for the children of other essential workers. Since the governor decided to close schools for the rest of the year, I no longer get to sing in my last choir concert after being a member since the sixth grade. I also may not get to attend my senior prom, and there is still no definite answer on if we will be able to have a graduation ceremony. I think if we all follow the social distancing rules it will make a difference. I am also hoping that the communities will come together to celebrate the Class of 2020, not just at Glenvar High, but all of the schools in the area,” – Kacey Floyd

“COVID-19 has changed things drastically. My wife and I are in our 60s, so there are only going to be so many changes we’ll make. However, we have spent great time and effort trying to get our three children and three grandchildren in a safe place. It seems like I have a million questions about the coronavirus. But I think the media has done an excellent job bringing us experts of all sorts. It has been quite a learning experience. I’m just so thankful for all those who continue to work in health care. They are real Americans. All sorts of people are braving this serious illness to keep the country going. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ll never forget what you’re doing and have done,” – Roland Lazenby

“I am a very social person so this has been difficult for me and my partner Amy because we enjoy getting together with friends and family as much as possible. My dad recently passed away after a five-year battle with dementia. I am still a caregiver for my 84-year-old mom who suffers from Alzheimer’s.  This also makes it difficult as you are concerned about passing COVID-19 onto her. This has also impacted me because I am running as the Republican nominee for the Salem City Council election on May 5.  This election could be the first all-mail election in Salem history.   This presents obvious challenges to all candidates as it limits all social interaction with potential voters,” – Hunter Holliday

“My wife and I are very active with the church and community. Volunteering with the Salem-Roanoke Food Pantry and various other activities through the Knights of Columbus is something I look forward to each month. All that has been ceased until this COVID-19 pandemic subsides. The wife takes care of me since I had a heart transplant in 2011 because of immunosuppressant complications. I have to remain in the house during this period, which means that I cannot even see my 11-month old grandson and granddaughter. As a community, I think we should pray and listen to the advice of the medical teams. Please stay indoors unless you have to go out. Wear a mask, gloves and use sanitizer often,” – Dave Wyble

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