Shawn Nowlin [email protected]
With so much confusion around COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, several questions remain unanswered: How can people protect themselves from the virus? What is CDC doing about COVID-19? Where can people go to see the most up to date information? Has anyone in Salem been infected?
With symptoms similar to seasonal flu, coronavirus is primarily a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. As of Wednesday morning, no cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Southwest Virginia. That doesn’t mean that precautions have not been taken. Governor Ralph Northam has closed all schools in the Commonwealth through at least March 27. By declaring a state of emergency, Gov. Northam has made Virginia eligible for federal emergency funding.
Salem Superintendent Alan Seibert said that the action the school division takes in regards to health-related matters will be driven by the Virginia Department of Health.
“We cannot choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we respond,” Seibert said. “We have been anticipating and preparing for this scenario for two weeks, so we choose to respond with patience, flexibility and a commitment to care for the students and families we serve and for one another.”
April Fudge and hundreds of other local parents have felt the impact of COVID-19. Fudge, a mother of three, is thankful for Salem City Schools providing instructional packets and Chromebooks so that her children can keep up with their studies.
“This coronavirus epidemic has been an extreme inconvenience. I mean parents getting laid off of work. Students having to be homeschooled. Businesses and organizations closing,” she said. “The most important thing right now is the health of our community. If we all work together, we will get through this.”
Nationally, the NCAA canceled its basketball tournament because of COVID-19. All major sports leagues have either suspended or canceled competition too. Locally, Salem Civic Center events, Kiwanis Club meetings, Salem Senior Center activities and Rotary Club meetings have all been impacted by the coronavirus.
All organized athletic events scheduled at parks and recreation facilities are canceled through at least Sunday, March 29. Unless it is absolutely necessary, Salem City Hall is requiring all department business to be done by email or mail.
While John Robinson was looking forward to many events last weekend, he understands why the decision had to be made. “I, like many other people, was disappointed that so many events were canceled. That pales in comparison to the health of our community. No measure should be too extreme regarding people’s safety,” he said.
Because the virus knows no city or county borders, people need to work together to make sure the community and hospitals continue to operate smoothly. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the city to help students with their studies. Parents also have the opportunity to pick up lunch and breakfast meals each day at their child’s designated bus stop.
As of Wednesday morning, the number of COVID-19 cases in Virginia was 51, according to the Virginia Department of Health. If anyone feels they have been exposed to the virus, they are encouraged to contact 800-232-4636.
The City of Salem maintains and updates a website (https://salemva.gov/Government/COVID-19) that locals can access for the most up to date information.