Suddenly, a new normal
Just two weeks ago—two weeks ago!—our schools were open, our basketball team was eyeing a tournament run, and our restaurants were dusting off the patio furniture for long evenings of springtime outdoor dining.
But thanks to the spread of the infectious and dangerous novel coronavirus, Charlottesville has had to quickly adjust to a new normal.
Parents are scrambling to keep their kids entertained for hours on end, and they can’t just throw them outside, because even the playgrounds are closed. Grocery stores have been cleaned out, as people stock up for a long period of social distancing (Trader Joe’s is limiting customers to 30 at a time inside the store). And on Monday, Governor Ralph Northam announced the closure of non-essential businesses—including gyms, barber shops, and salons—and banned gatherings of more than 10 people.
The town’s health care infrastructure has braced itself for what appears to be an imminent rush of new patients. UVA hospital, which made drastic changes to its visitor policy March 22, has set up a screening station at its entrance, and health care providers are short on personal protective gear, including masks, gloves, and goggles.
Restaurants have shifted to take-out only, including Bodo’s, which for so long resisted the tantalizing potential of the Emmet Street and Preston Avenue stores’ already installed drive-through windows. In times like these, it’s good to accentuate the positive: Yes, we’re in the thick of a global pandemic and a total economic collapse, but at least we’ve got drive-through bagels.
Quote of the Week
“The sooner we can get this health crisis under control, the sooner our economy will recover… We must put aside what we want and replace it with what we need.”
—Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on his directive, issued March 23, to close non-essential businesses for 30 days
More masks, please!
Local health care workers are soliciting donations of masks, gloves, goggles, and other household goods in the face of a national shortage of protective gear. Paige Perriello, an area pediatrician, tweeted a picture of herself wearing a mask made of styrofoam and a piece of clear plastic with the caption “Charlottesville’s innovators are coming to our aid!” The initiative is called Equip Cville, and donations can be left at Champion brewery from 11am-1pm every day—see supportcville.com for details.
This year’s city budget discussions were contentious even before the added stress of a worldwide public health crisis. Now, with COVID-19 shutting down the restaurant and tourism industries, and meals and lodging tax revenues falling accordingly, the city has announced it will need to cut an additional $5 million from the final budget. The budget was supposed to be finalized in April, but for obvious reasons it will not be finished on schedule.
The Charlottesville Area Community Foundation has raised more than $2 million for its emergency response fund, thanks to Dave Matthews Band’s Bama Works Fund, the Batten Family Fund, the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, and more than 150 other donors. In partnership with Cville Community Cares and United Way, as well the city and county, CACF will distribute the money to area households impacted by COVID-19 and community-based organizations that provide food, housing, and other forms of basic assistance.
Taking a stand
A group of UVA student activists has created a petition demanding greater resources and support from the university, particularly for students who are low-income, first-generation, and immunocompromised. The petition asks UVA to provide non-student workers (such as Aramark employees) and non-federal work study student workers with paid sick leave; refund housing, meals plans, and tuition/fees (or provide a prorated credit for next semester); offer housing to housing-insecure students and community members; and establish a mutual aid fund for students and low-wage workers with unexpected expenses, among other demands. It has been signed by more than 750 other students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members.