RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today (March 17, 2020) announced additional steps to help Virginians impacted by a novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, stop the spread of the virus in the Commonwealth, and protect public health.
“Everyone must play a role to help flatten the curve and mitigate the spread of this virus, and that starts with social distancing,” said Governor Northam. “We know this will be a hardship for many businesses, and we are assisting workers affected by closures. Public health relies on every individual using common sense and making responsible decisions. We can and will get through this difficult time. But we must work together to do so.”
Further Reducing Public Gatherings
Governor Northam told Virginians to avoid non-essential gatherings of more than 10 people, per federal guidelines. This does not include normal operations at essential services such as manufacturers, distribution centers, airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, grocery stores, or pharmacies.
Protecting High-Risk Virginians
Those with chronic health conditions or aged 65 or older should self-quarantine. Public health experts advise that individuals with underlying medical conditions and those aged 65 or older are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Governor Northam encouraged neighbors and friends to stay in touch and regularly check in with high-risk individuals.
Increasing Social Distancing
All restaurants, fitness centers, and theaters are mandated to significantly reduce their capacity to 10 patrons, or close. Restaurants are encouraged to continue carry-out and takeaway options.
Support for Affected Workers
Governor Northam announced the following actions to protect working Virginians impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak:
• No waiting for unemployment benefits. Governor Northam has directed the Commissioner of the Virginia Employment Commission to waive the one-week waiting period to ensure workers can receive benefits as soon as possible.
• Enhanced eligibility for unemployment. Workers may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits if an employer needs to temporarily slow or cease operations due to COVID-19. If a worker has been issued a notice to self-quarantine by a medical or public health official and is not receiving paid sick or medical leave from their employer, they may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. In addition, a worker may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they must stay home to care for an ill family member and are not receiving paid family medical leave from their employer.
• Fewer restrictions. For individuals receiving unemployment insurance, Governor Northam is directing the Virginia Employment Commission to give affected workers special consideration on deadlines, mandatory re-employment appointments, and work search requirements.
The Office of the Governor is providing a Frequently Asked Questions guide for workers that have been temporarily laid off or discharged during this public health crisis.
Support for Impacted Employers
• Regional workforce teams will be activated to support employers that slow or cease operations. Employers who do slow or cease operations will not be financially penalized for an increase in workers requesting unemployment benefits.
• The Governor is authorizing rapid response funding, through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, for employers eligible to remain open during this emergency. Funds may be used to clean facilities and support emergency needs.
• Governor Northam is directing all employers to follow the U.S. Department of Labor guidance on workplace safety.
Department of Motor Vehicle Office Closures
• Virginia’s 75 DMV offices, as well as mobile units, will close to the public.
• Online services will remain available, and anyone needing to renew a license or vehicle registration is encouraged to do so online.
• For those who cannot renew online, or whose license or registration expires before May 15, DMV will grant a 60-day extension.
Governor Northam requested and the Supreme Court of Virginia granted a judicial emergency in response to COVID-19. From Monday, March 16 through Monday, April 6, non-essential, non-emergency court proceedings in all district and circuit courts are suspended absent a specific exemption. This includes a prohibition on new eviction cases for tenants who are unable to pay rent as a result of COVID-19. All non-exempted court deadlines are tolled and extended for a period of 21 days.
The State Corporation Commission (SCC) issued an order directing utilities it regulates, such as electric, natural gas, and water companies in Virginia, to suspend service disconnections for 60 days to provide immediate relief for any customer, residential and business, who may be financially impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
For a comprehensive list of actions, Governor Northam has announced to combat COVID-19 in Virginia, visit virginia.gov/coronavirus.
Valley Health offers new services to streamline care
Valley Health has implemented three services this week to streamline access to safe and timely COVID-19-related outpatient care: a COVID-19 Respiratory Care Phone Line, telehealth visits with providers, and a new Respiratory Care Clinic.
“The vast majority of patients who contract COVID-19 won’t require inpatient care in a hospital setting,” says Jeffrey Feit, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Valley Physician Enterprise. “We felt strongly that we needed a way to care for the community that provides a full spectrum of care for patients with respiratory complaints and reduces the chances of well patients and patients with chronic illnesses becoming sick when going to a regular office visit.”
COVID-19 Respiratory Care Phone Line
Valley Health has developed a new service for people who have a fever, cough, or other respiratory symptoms and need evaluation. Community members may call our dedicated phone line at 540-536-0380, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., and be guided to their primary care provider or a Valley Health Family Medicine/Urgent Care office for a telehealth visit.
Telehealth at Valley Health Urgent Care Centers and Medical Practices
Following recent changes by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow the broad use of telehealth visits by providers and health systems, several Valley Health Family Medicine, Urgent Care, and Specialty offices successfully piloted a new platform this week that enables patients to be seen by providers from the comfort of their homes.
“We are committed to caring for patients with respiratory illness in the safest way possible, and also want to offer other patients an expedient way to be evaluated,” says Jacob Meza, Senior Director of Valley Regional Enterprises, a division of Valley Health. “By Monday, all Valley Health Urgent Care centers and most Valley Health medical practices will have telehealth in place.”
After making an appointment, the office determines if telehealth is a good option instead of, or in addition to, a face-to-face office visit. If so, the patient receives a link which, when clicked, puts them “in” the exam room, ready to see their provider.
The new platform does not require the user to download any new software and may be accessed with any iPhone, Android phone, tablet or computer with a web camera, using Chrome, Safari or Firefox. Additionally, all telehealth visits have waived copays at the time of the visit to remove as many barriers as possible to help people receive the right care in the safest manner.
Visit www.valleyhealthlink.com/telehealth for a list of participating practices.
Respiratory Care Clinic
Patients who need an in-person provider visit now have a “next step” opportunity for care at a new outpatient Respiratory Care Clinic located adjacent to the COVID-19 test collection site at Rutherford Crossing in Winchester. Opened Thursday, March 26, the clinic is a resource for patients who need chest x-rays and other physical exams following a telehealth visit. A referral is required from a patient’s primary care physician. Watch for additional locations in other Valley Health communities.
Other updates related to COVID-19:
Request to Employers – Valley Health’s hospital Emergency Departments, Urgent Care Centers, and physician practices have reported a growing number of patients requesting a note to return to work. We are unable to accommodate that request. Consistent with guidelines from the CDC and state agencies, we ask area employers to waive the required healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work. Our emergency departments and doctor’s offices are not in a position to provide this documentation in a timely way.
Supply Donations –Many businesses and individuals have offered to share their time and talents by making home-sewn masks. We are heartened and encouraged by this show of support and concern for the safety of our patients and staff. Donated masks will help us preserve our supply of personal protective equipment (PPE). In order to ensure the highest possible level of protection, we have step-by-step instructions for making masks with elastic and masks without elastic on our website.
Blood Donors Needed – Many are asking what they can do to help. We urge all residents who are able to roll up their sleeves and help maintain our supply of blood products. The Red Cross donor center in Winchester has daily collection times. In West Virginia, bloodmobiles are scheduled in Keyser on March 31, Berkeley Springs on April 2, Ranson on April 3, and Bunker Hill on April 4. For more information, visit redcrossblood.org and enter your zip code or call 1.800.RED.CROSS.
Local real estate industry reaction to COVID-19 crisis; new video series to help sellers, buyers and homeowners
Realtors, buyers, sellers, and homeowners, in general, are understandably curious about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local real estate market. Local industry expert Beth Medved Waller (a top-producing associate broker in Warren County) interviewed countless agents about the state of their business and hopes to shed a light on the pulse of the local real estate market from multiple agents and perspectives. “It’s my obligation as well as my honor to inform my community about the state of the real estate industry in light of the current state of our world,” says Waller who’s been a top producing Realtor since 2005.
Watch this video for her general commentary about the local real estate climate amid threats of the virus spreading through the Shenandoah Valley:
Stay tuned for Beth’s video series (launching through Royal Examiner next week) offering tips for people to enhance their “real estate health” while they are stuck indoors to protect their own health. In the seven-part series, she’ll be advising homeowners, buyers (both active home seekers and those thinking of buying soon), sellers (those with active real estate listings and with properties preparing to hit the market this spring) and Realtors (agents already in business as well as people who are considering becoming a licensed practitioner). She’ll share suggestions about what each party can do to make their time at home productive from a real estate perspective. A four-part article is also being published with her timely tips by “Real Estate Agent Magazine.”
A Bright MLS analysis by Waller on 3/25/2020 indicated that Warren County inventory levels are approximately 100 units below 2019 stats with 178 active listings, 6 coming soon, 14 temporarily off the market and 8 withdrawn within the last two weeks. Since Friday the 13th (when COVID precautions tightened), 28 listings went under contract/pending for a total of 110 in the category. Many recent listings posting have been new constructions and vacant homes obviously have extra appeal in today’s market.
”My most active properties are my vacant listings, but I did have a showing this weekend on one of my occupied homes and am expecting an offer. The agent and buyers wore gloves and my seller felt comfortable, although the same seller declined an earlier showing this week when the agent informed me that her buyers had just returned from overseas (and were within the recommended 14-day quarantine).” Beth added, “Showings on my listings have drastically slowed since Friday the 13th, but I’m encouraged by the buyer and agent calls I’ve received since Thursday. I listed a vacant home on Friday and have had 5 showings already, which is less than normal, but much better than I feared. I’ve only ratified one contract in three weeks, but have renewed hope that as we navigate our new ‘normal’ buyer activity will increase. I expect to start seeing virtual showings more and more and anticipate having offers from buyers who haven’t physically toured that will include the ‘sights unseen’ and new ‘COVID-19’ addendums.” Closing delays have already occurred for Waller due to lender slow-downs from appraisal backlogs and government tax transcript delays. How the market will be affected as the virus spreads more heavily through the valley remains to be seen, but “business as usual” is a thing of the past for the foreseeable future.
According to Executive Order 53, all professional service business (including real estate) may remain open as long as an emphasis is placed on honoring the under 10 gathering mandates, teleworking as much as feasible, meeting with clients virtually when possible, avoiding hosting in-person open houses, engaging in social distancing, limiting the numbers of houses buyers tour and embracing enhanced sanitizing practices.
Cindy Greenya, President of the Blue Ridge Association of Realtors, offered a positive outlook for the industry:
“All of us are walking into an unknown time. Realtors and the Association are trying to figure out how to adapt and change. We are still very low on inventory, houses are still selling and our affiliates and members are working on adjusting the way they do business as well. People still need to buy and sell houses, people are still moving. Now is just a time for us to adjust and change, and at some point in the future life will go back to normal, we just don’t know when that will be.” She added that she’s still seeing showings, especially on vacant property, but she has heard from colleagues that slowdowns are happening and deals are falling through. She’s been blessed to date with showing activity but is anxious to see what happens when her many upcoming listings hit the market. So far, she’s encouraging her sellers to not delay and to get on the market as planned since buyers are seeking additional homes inventory and interest rates are at an all-time low. She also emphasizes the importance for real estate professionals to keep in close communication with their clients and to invest time to keep abreast of the FAQs and COVID-19 releases being published by Virginia REALTORS at www.virginiarealtors.org/coronavirus.
Sharon Cales of Remax in Front Royal (a top producing Realtor for three decades and partner with Ken and Donna Evans of frontroyalagents.com) has the following commentary to share with the community:
My biggest concerns are for the welfare of our clients and their families. While our job is to sell real estate we are still obligated by our code of ethics to keep “the best interest of the client” at the forefront. Knowing that there may be a silent killer on the doorstep makes it more difficult than ever before. As an industry, we are being told to disinfect the surfaces, stop hand to face contact and keep washing our hands. My concern is that this is not enough. Some still appear to think this is a hoax or overkill, REALTORs included. Those of us who have friends still recovering know better. Showing vacant properties is a much easier process. While I still have concerns, I can indeed disinfect and do what is suggested by the CDC. However, the necessary items they suggest using are in VERY short supply and in most cases impossible to get. Occupied properties are where my largest concerns lie. There is no way for us to know what the homeowners are doing to protect their environment or what the buyers or sellers may have been exposed to. This is an environment that is an accident looking for a place to happen. We have the ability to either take the virus into an otherwise safe environment or bring it out with us into the world. Not a safe situation for anyone.
While the government has named us essential, it is my belief that the guidelines should be refined. We still need to process existing cases and get buyers and sellers to the closing table while taking the necessary precautions set forth by the CDC. However, it is my opinion that showings should be limited to vacant homes. In the event showings on occupied properties is essential, the buyers and sellers both should agree to sign off on an authorization form stating both parties understand the possible ramifications. I’m sure some brokers might be OK with that. However, this does still not address the possible infection for the REALTOR. Some Brokers and companies have already made statements concerning their policies. Most have not and it’s business almost as usual. Since we are an industry based on commission income and the future of the market is uncertain, many REALTORS are going to be willing to take the risks I’m afraid.
Sharon Cales on Current Buyer/Seller Traffic:
My showings are way down also. I’d say it’s a reduction of 85% or so. I have had a few calls but several canceled after scheduling and hearing the daily news updates. I do have a couple touring this weekend. However, I am only showing vacant properties. The phones are VERY quiet and although I am continuing to touch base with buyers and sellers, the return calls are not coming in. People seem to be very concerned. Last week, nobody knew anybody affected, but now everybody seems to know somebody being tested or positive for the virus. Listings are almost down to nothing also. Sellers don’t seem to know which way to go. I have ratified 3 contracts, but all have been on vacant properties.
Broker/Owner of Main Street Front Royal’s Exit Premier Realty, Jim Clark (theclarkteamrealty.com), who has been thriving as one of the top producers in Warren County in recent years offers encouragement:
The real estate industry is the most resilient industry in the world. We work in an ever-changing landscape in an ever-changing world, and it changes very quickly sometimes. From economic impacts, legislative requirements, dealing with influxes of foreclosures and short sales, etc, etc. We real estate professional weather the storm, time after time after time. Coronavirus is another storm. It’s a big scary storm. But we are adapting. From virtual showings, video conferencing with clients, and we’re even working on e-closing so clients don’t have to sign their settlement docs in person. We will get through this, just like we have every other time… every other storm. We’ll be stronger and better for it. Because we are all in this together. May God bless and protect us all, and God bless America.
Jim Clark on Current Buyer/Seller Traffic:
I’d say we are down 80% from 2 weeks ago in showings for buyers and of listings, showings on my listings have totally died as well. A few here and there. But it’s really come to a total stop. It’s sad. So many people want to buy and want to sell but they can’t.
A March 23rd Virginia REALTORS Press Release States: Going into March 2020, consumer confidence remained high; however, it is likely these consumer confidence measures will fall this spring. Says Virginia REALTORS® Chief Economist Lisa Sturtevant, Ph.D., “Heading into the spring, local housing markets across Virginia were strong, and February was a good month for the market. While the full impact of COVID-19 is not yet certain, strong economic fundamentals in the Commonwealth can help support a quick recovery. We’ll know much more when March housing market data are available in mid-April.”
Contact a Realtor for updates concerning the local market or reach out to Beth Medved Waller at email@example.com or 540-671-6145. Check out her column on Royal Examiner for future updates and videos pertaining to the market.
Troop 53 Annual Mulch Sale – Apr 4, 2020
Spring is approaching and Troop 53 is preparing for their annual mulch fundraiser. The funds raised will help support troop activities and send our Boy Scouts to summer camp where they learn valuable skills in leadership, outdoors, and many more through the scouting program.
They will be accepting pre-orders through April 2, 2020, so please place your order to reserve the quantities needed before we sell out. All pick up orders will be available for pick up on Saturday, April 4, 2020, at the Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue and deliveries will be made the same day.
The mulch bags are the same 3 cubic feet (larger than standard 2CF bags at the retail stores) shredded hardwood in a dark brown color.
Pricing for this year:
• $4.05 per bag for pick up
• $4.55 per bag for delivery
Orders may be placed via:
• Email the completed order form to firstname.lastname@example.org
• Text 540-692-9110 with name, address, number, email, and quantity.
• Mail the completed order form to Troop 53 Mulch c/o Britton Bowman, 162 Ascalon Dr, Middletown, VA 22645
• Call 540-692-9110; If we are unable to answer right away, please leave a detailed message with name, number, address, and quantity and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
The Troop can accept payments via credit/debit cards with a 4% fee to cover the processing fees. Please let us know if you wish to pay via credit/debit card and a payable invoice will be emailed to you.
Please forward this message to family, friends, and neighbors to help us spread the word.
Thank you for your continued support of Troop 53.
“Dare to Dream” awards made at a “breakfast/non-breakfast” by Front Royal women’s group
An annual breakfast recognizing nine “Dare to Dream” candidates sharing more than $8,000 to help make their dreams a reality became, due to the coronavirus, a “no breakfast/breakfast” on-line where this year’s presentations were made by the Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC).
Despite the international tragedy of the virus playing out this year, FRWRC was determined to publicly honor its 2020 list of women, selected from many who dared to dream, breakfast or no breakfast, and did so March 26. The FRWRC, established in 1996, launched “Dare to Dream” in 1999, meanwhile raising more than $100,000 for the program.
In a statement issued on-line, the Front Royal women’s organization said, in part: “One of the things our breakfast does that is subtle but extremely powerful, is to tell each of the grantees that we believe in them. Each of them has a story that touches us deeply and in turn, connects us to them and to each other. So now, in this extremely challenging time…we need to find other ways to reach out to touch, and to inspire, each other.”
Reach out they did, naming Megan Vardiman this year’s winner of the top award, the Elaine Bromfield Memorial Scholarship, including a check for $1,500. Megan, mother of four young children and enrolled at Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC), dreams of becoming a psychologist, specifically helping women heal from trauma. Currently, she volunteers at Blue Ridge Hospice, and with Young Lives, a program offering support to teen mothers.
Other “dreamers” include:
- Diana Cercy of Linden ($900) who brought her Healing HeARTS Toolboxes and workshops from Prince William and Fauquier Counties. She is expanding her non-profit to cover her new community and Warren County schools.
- Mary Cook of Browntown Road, an artist, whose dream is to offer free arts experiences to children and adults in need. She received a check for $900 to purchase materials for mobile art workshops.
- Taylor Fletcher was awarded $1,000 for her nursing studies at LFCC. Taylor’s dream is to become a Nurse Practitioner,
encouraged by her experience with caring for her ailing grandmother.
- Mia Coffman, a Front Royal native now in her junior year at the University of Lynchburg where she is working toward a degree in special education. Her dream is to teach children with special needs. She received $600 to cover tuition costs for a class next semester.
- Amanda Horn, a fine art major at the Art Institute of Chicago and George Mason University, mother of two, with a current focus on painting plants and wildlife. She has shown and sold her work at wineries, art shows, and festivals, also murals in and on buildings locally. Her dream is to further share her paintings in the area. She received $1,000 to purchase a portable art display system.
- Eka Kapiotis, who established Valley Health’s Reiki Training Program, is a Cranio-Sacral Therapist (CST) dreaming of becoming a certified CST therapist at the highest level – that of “Diplomate.” She was award $600 toward the cost of gaining this certification.
- Meghan LeCompte is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and a medical technician at the Senior Living Center in Front Royal. She also volunteers at Warren County Fire and Rescue while studying for her Registered Nurse (RN) degree next year. She was awarded $1,000 for school expenses.
- Laura Ruby received $600 toward her dream of better addressing the needs of underserved populations, a trend. she discovered after opening Ruby Yoga in Front Royal three years ago. Specifically, she seeks training in kids’ yoga and in traumatic-informed yoga.
At its first on-line breakfast, FRWC noted that the year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of congressional ratification of the 19th Amendment in which “women’s right to vote was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.”
Important updates from Congressman Ben Cline
Our Nation is facing a historic crisis. In the last month, COVID-19 has infected over 85,000 Americans, more than any other nation on Earth. Over 1200 of our fellow Americans have perished, and we are making every effort to stop the virus from taking from us thousands more of our neighbors, our friends, and our family members. The first Virginian was infected only three weeks ago, and since then we have seen life as we know it across our Commonwealth come to a screeching halt.
The crisis created by this virus is twofold. It is first and foremost a health crisis, made worse by the stealth with which the virus spreads. Often those infected feel no symptoms and unsuspectingly pass the virus on to weaker and more vulnerable targets. And it takes advantage of the very characteristics that make us a great Nation, preying on our love of freedom, our love of social interaction, and our love of community. As the government has sought to eliminate the virus, it has urged practices that contradict many of these characteristics that make America great. Who would’ve thought that in America we would be advised not to gather in groups, eat out at a restaurant, or attend a graduation program, music concert, or church service?
The second crisis created by COVID-19 is economic, and the combination of the virus itself and the actions taken to fight the virus has brought our economy to its knees. As lock-downs are announced and bans on gatherings of more than 10 people enforced, the impact of our economy has been pronounced. The stock market has lost a third of its value, main streets across America are empty, and sporting events and other celebrations have been canceled. Just this week, it was announced that over 3 million people filed for unemployment last week, shattering the old record of 665,000 in March 2009. We cannot lose sight of the need to beat the virus on both the health front and the economic front.
Fortunately, Congress acted this week to address both the health crisis and the economic crisis surrounding COVID-19 bypassing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides resources to hospitals and health care workers while supporting American workers and small businesses through this challenging time. While I did not agree with all of the provisions, I was pleased that the Senate rejected Speaker Pelosi’s progressive wish list and was proud to vote in favor of this legislation. It provides much-needed assistance to Sixth District residents and businesses and gives our hospitals and health care providers the best fighting chance to contain COVID-19 and rid it from our Nation.
On Tuesday, I hosted a special telephone town hall focusing on the coronavirus. I was joined by Dr. Laura Kornegay, Health Director of Central Shenandoah Health District, and Delegate Chris Head, who sits on the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee in the Virginia General Assembly. To listen to the audio recording, please click here.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, Governor Northam has issued an executive order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. He has discouraged all gatherings of more than 10 people statewide. This does not include gatherings for purposes of providing healthcare or medical services, access to essential services for low-income Virginians, law enforcement operations, or government operations.
Recreation and Entertainment Businesses:
As of March 24, the following business is considered non-essential and must close to the public:
• Theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums, and other indoor entertainment centers;
• Fitness centers, gymnasiums, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities;
• Beauty salons, barbershops, spas, massage parlors, tanning salons, tattoo shops, and any other location where personal care or personal grooming services are performed that would not allow compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain six feet apart;
• Racetracks and historic horse racing facilities;
• Bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, arts and craft facilities, aquariums, zoos, escape rooms, indoor shooting ranges, public and private social clubs, and all other places of indoor public amusement.
Restaurants & Bars:
The following establishments must be closed to the public but may continue to offer delivery and/or takeout services:
• Dining establishments;
• Food courts;
• Farmers markets;
• Wineries; and
• Tasting rooms.
The Governor has issued specific guidance for retail businesses. The following retail businesses are considered essential and may remain open during normal business hours:
• Grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers that sell food and beverage products or pharmacy products, including dollar stores, and department stores with grocery or pharmacy operations;
• Medical, laboratory, and vision supply retailers;
• Electronic retailers that sell or service cell phones, computers, tablets, and other communications technology;
• Automotive parts, accessories, and tire retailers as well as automotive repair facilities;
• Home improvement, hardware, building material, and building supply retailers;
• Lawn and garden equipment retailers;
• Beer, wine, and liquor stores;
• Retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores;
• Retail located within healthcare facilities;
• Banks and other financial institutions with retail functions;
• Pet stores and feed stores;
• Printing and office supply stores; and
• Laundromats and dry cleaners.
All essential retail establishments must, to the extent possible, adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing practices on common surfaces, and other appropriate workplace guidance from state and federal authorities.
The Governor has also closed all public schools through the end of the academic year. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will issue guidance to help divisions execute plans to continue instruction, while ensuring students are served equitably, regardless of income level, access to technology, English learner status, or special needs. This includes options for additional instruction through summer programming, integrating instruction into coursework next year, and allowing students to make up the content. VDOE will submit a waiver to the federal government to lift end-of-year testing requirements and is exploring options to waive state-mandated tests.
Students who are in need of meals can still access them. To learn more about meals, text “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877877.
Guidance for Small Business Owners:
Small business owners who are struggling amidst this crisis should look into the Small Business Administration Loan Program. Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at sba.gov. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email email@example.com for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.
At cline.house.gov, you can access further information about the coronavirus pandemic, including administrative, congressional, and state action that has been taken to curb the spread of the virus, resources for businesses, and information from the CDC on how to keep you and your families healthy. While Congress works on legislation and the CDC works toward vaccines and cures, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself and others from infection:
• Practice social distancing, and avoid close contact with other people.
• Stay home if you are sick.
• Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
As U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said, “Caution is appropriate, preparedness is appropriate, panic is not.” Rest assured, I will continue to keep you informed, monitor the situation in Virginia and around the country, and work with my colleagues to ensure the full, coordinated force of the federal government is behind our efforts to stop the spread of this disease.
If you experience symptoms or have been exposed to someone recently diagnosed with COVID-19, contact your doctor immediately to determine if you need screening.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Resources:
Follow @CDCgov on Twitter
Resources for Business:
EDA passes series of motions following 3-hour, virtual closed session
One day after the Warren County-Front Royal COVID-19 Coronavirus Emergency Management team held its first briefing available to the public live only by remote video link-up, the Town-County Economic Development Authority followed suit at its monthly meeting of Friday, March 27.
However, the EDA took additional steps on the pandemic response social distancing frontier and the enabling of live remote participation and viewing. Only EDA Executive Director Doug Parsons and Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson were at the EDA Kendrick Lane office where board meetings are normally held. The six EDA Board of Directors members, as well as media, public and county board representatives were all linked in remotely by home or office audio-video computer hook up.
Or as the meeting notice colorfully stated, “Due to the state and local state of emergency declarations, this meeting will be conducted virtually, as will all EDA board meetings until further notice during the emergency. The EDA sincerely welcomes public access to this unprecedented event. The EDA will be using the web conferencing platform Zoom”.
Access was also available by telephone link-up.
A tally of those connected virtually included two members of the public (Linda Allen, James Wolfe), one county board member (Oates), two media (Royal Examiner, NVD), three attorneys (Pandak, Seltzer, Seigel), the six EDA board members and two EDA staff – may be only a couple supervisors short of normal 8 a.m. in-house attendance.
After virtual meeting moderator and EDA Board Vice-Chairman Jeff Browne helped participants through their connections, the board adjourned to closed session to discuss four primary topics:
1 – legal advice on the “disposition of … 2 East Main Street/Afton Inn”;
2 – a prospective business or industry client at the 426 Baugh Drive warehouse;
3 – legal consultation on the Town of Front Royal’s civil litigation against the EDA and the EDA’s civil litigation against its former Executive Director Jennifer McDonald et al; and
4 – auditor contracts with Yount, Hyde & Barbour P.C. and RFO auditor services regarding small business loan debt collection.
As noted above, three attorneys were involved in the meeting’s virtual hook up, the EDA’s contracted attorney Sharon Pandak and Sands Anderson attorneys Cullen Seltzer and Dan Siegel, the latter two who have been involved from the March 26, 2019 filing in the EDA’s now $21.3 million civil actions against McDonald and 14 co-defendants alleging embezzlement, fraud, and misdirection of EDA assets. Hired as independent EDA counsel in the wake of Dan Whitten’s resignation as County and EDA attorney, Pandak has been the EDA’s legal adviser in response to the Town’s now-amended $20-million-plus litigation against the EDA.
With that full plate of closed session business, the estimate of an hour behind virtual closed doors coming shortly after 8 a.m. fell about two hours short.
And while there were no announcements or motions regarding the two civil litigations or the now apparently disputed by the Town of Front Royal status of Afton Inn ownership, a series of resolutions and motions were approved by 6-0 votes prior to the meeting’s 11:10 a.m. adjournment.
However, as to the status of the Afton Inn, in the written monthly Asset Committee Report it is noted that “There is no public report on the Afton Inn status other than the Town of Front Royal has listed the Inn in their revised complaint in the Town of Front Royal vs. FR-WC EDA. This simply provides a new dynamic that we have to deal with in our continuing efforts to re-position this property. We continue to discuss the dynamics of this with 2 East Main (LLC, the proposed redeveloper of the property under contract with the EDA as current owner).”
As for the series of approved motions and resolutions, they included:
1 – a resolution to return the $5,000 deposit of William Huck after the failure to close a contract with the EDA on the old Stokes Mart building at 506 East Main Street;
2 – a resolution to approve a contract on a backup offer to sell the 506 East Main building to an alternate buyer at a price of $190,000;
3 – a resolution to amend EDA bylaws to facilitate the electronic meetings during the COVID-19 Coronavirus state of emergency declarations;
4 – an amendment extending the deadline on the removal of the solar panels from the EDA Kendrick Lane Office Complex from the original April 30 date. The new deadline will be 30 days after the Governor of Virginia lifts the COVID-19 state of Emergency.
That contract with Sunshine Properties LLC will pay the EDA $40,500 for the two-building solar panel array originally installed during McDonald’s executive directorship in an arrangement with Earth Right Energy. McDonald, ERE and ERE principal Donnie Poe were all named as defendants in the EDA’s March 2019 civil litigation. Consequently, the plan for the provision of solar power to the EDA office complex went south with the filing of that litigation and other technical complications;
5 – a motion authorizing the reacquisition of the 3.5-acre Royal Lane parcel from the Cornerstone LLC branch of the Aikens Group at cost of $26,776.54. The difference in the EDA’s sale price of ten dollars to Cornerstone LLC reflects pre-construction work and planning services done by the Aikens Group for work it will not now be able to achieve after resolving the situation on the somewhat inexplicable late November 2018 EDA transfer of a property it paid $440,000 for. That price was agreed upon by the McDonald-led EDA board Chaired by Patty Wines after an initial $10 gift by McDonald’s relatives was negated by a missed tax rebate deadline.
Serving as EDA attorney on that sale in the wake of then EDA-attorney Dan Whitten’s recusal, Joe Silek Jr. said the deed of sale was sent to Cornerstone attorneys without a price on it. Then EDA Board Chairman Gray Blanton, who signed the deed of sale, said he only saw the signature page. At the time the sale situation became public in early 2019, the Winchester-based Cornerstone attorneys’ group never responded to three messages left seeking information on how the $10 purchase price was established.
While the Royal Lane parcel was intended for the development of a workforce housing apartment complex under EDA direction, Parsons told Royal Examiner after the Friday’s meeting adjournment that the EDA will likely seek to sell the parcel to the private sector for residential development, which as he has previously noted, is not a normal undertaking for EDA’s.
6 – a motion to amend the loan agreement with First Bank on a $3.59 million note covering several older projects to illustrate the County’s support of the EDA on the issue as it grapples with the aftermath of the financial scandal the above-referenced civil litigations revolve around;
7 – a motion on a monthly payment agreement on a rural business enterprise loan with Ontiveros;
And 8 – Due to the governor’s COVID-19 emergency declaration closing “non-essential” businesses, the EDA will offer rent/loan payment forbearance “to all clients in good standing”. The plan is to temporarily waive April payments and then offer quarter payments on a monthly basis until there is some resolution to the emergency declaration allowing businesses to reopen.
And so it goes on the Front Royal, Warren County Economic Development front as the retooled EDA Board of Directors, staff and County officials try to navigate the turbulent waters, increasingly stirred to a boiling point by the Town of Front Royal’s hostile litigious stance, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic emergency declarations wreaking havoc with small businesses across the town, county, commonwealth, and nation.