Parking lots have become the scene of all kinds of new activity in our virus-crippled world. Students are sitting in their cars to access school Wi-Fi. Religious congregations are meeting without getting out of their vehicles. And here in town, the Charlottesville Free Clinic is offering parking lot dental services for its patients: Two days a week, as many as 15 patients drive up and say “ahhh.”
The Free Clinic provides care to those who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but don’t get health insurance from work. Parking lot dental checkups are just one way the clinic has adapted to life during the pandemic—they’re also doing curbside medication delivery and evaluating patients for financial eligibility over the phone.
“A lot of folks are losing their jobs, and therefore their insurance,” says Colleen Keller, the director of the clinic. “We anticipate having a lot of new patients by fall.”
The clinic has focused on maintaining its pharmacy services, and the most common medication it distributes is insulin. “We are seeing patients who aren’t always refilling on time coming in,” Keller says. “They know they are vulnerable, and they are working on their health. This is a silver lining.”
Like health care workers around the country, the free clinic’s staff is going full speed ahead. “As one staff member said, ‘It feels good that we can do something. It’s harder when I leave and go home,’” Keller says. “We have enormous gratitude for our jobs, and for the community who funds a free clinic.”
Neighbors helping neighbors
Since March 13, the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation’s Community Emergency Response Fund has raised more than $4.4 million from more than 600 donations—including a gift of $1 million from the University of Virginia—to help those who need it most during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fund has awarded $200,000 in grants to local nonprofits that provide critical services, including the Sexual Assault Resource Agency and Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.
And through the Community Foundation’s partnership with Cville Community Cares and United Way of Greater Charlottesville, along with city and county governments, it runs a Community Resource Helpline to provide direct support to local residents in need of money for rent, groceries, and other essential expenses. The helpline has already assisted more than 7,200 people, and with the recent addition of an online form to make the process easier, the foundation expects that number to drastically increase.
Quote of the Week
“I am committed to an in-person fall semester in which we are back together in our classrooms, laboratories, studios, and clinics.”
—Virginia Commonwealth University president Michael Rao, as UVA and other schools are staying mum on fall plans
A welcome site
The City of Charlottesville has a new digital home, upgrading its website this week from charlottesville.org to charlottesville.gov. The new website is sleeker and slimmer, with 500 pages compared to the previous site’s 2,000. At the City Council meeting last week, councilor Heather Hill promised a “new website, new domain, same commitment to service,” while communications chief Brian Wheeler acknowledged that “a lot of links are going to be broken.”
Those who’ve long cherished Charlottesville’s (increasingly rare) quirks got a treat last week, when an alleged self-portrait of Dutch Golden Age painter Frans Hals showed up for sale on Charlottesville Craigslist. It’s going for $7.5 million (though the poster will consider “reasonable offers” and “partial trade for real estate”). Art historians consider Hals to be one of the best painters of his time, but local experts were hesitant to speculate on the painting’s authenticity. As for why the anonymous poster would want to part with such a treasure, the owner said only: “It is time for him to come under new stewardship.”
With COVID-19 keeping students off Grounds—possibly until next spring semester—businesses on the Corner have taken a huge hit. To help them survive, tech nonprofit HackCville has created savethecorner.com, which thousands of students have used to buy gift cards from their favorite Corner spots and donate to the Charlottesville Restaurant Community Fund. HackCville has also raised over $2,000 to buy meals from Corner restaurants for UVA’s contract workers laid off by Aramark.
Tragedy on the frontlines
Dr. Lorna Breen died at UVA Hospital on Sunday of self-inflicted injuries. While serving hundreds of coronavirus patients, Breen, emergency department medical director at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, contracted the virus, but tried to go back into work after staying home for about a week and a half. After the hospital sent her back home, her family brought her to Charlottesville. According to her father, Dr. Phillip Breen, the pandemic had taken an extreme toll on her mental health. “Make sure she’s praised as a hero, because she was,” Breen told The New York Times. “She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died.”