RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today declared a state of emergency in advance of Hurricane Dorian’s effects on southeastern Virginia, anticipated to begin Thursday.
“Hurricane Dorian is a serious storm, and current predictions indicate that it may affect parts of Virginia,” said Governor Northam. “I am declaring a state of emergency to ensure that localities and communities have the appropriate level of assistance, and to coordinate the Commonwealth’s response to any potential impacts from Hurricane Dorian. I encourage Virginians to take all necessary precautions to make sure they are prepared as well.”
Potential impacts from Hurricane Dorian include coastal and inland flooding, storm surge, damaging winds and prolonged power outages.
A state of emergency allows the Commonwealth to mobilize resources and to deploy people and equipment to assist in response and recovery efforts. The declaration also allows officials from Virginia to coordinate planning and evacuation resources with the state of North Carolina.
This action does not apply to individuals or private businesses.
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia National Guard, Virginia Department of Social Services, Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and other agencies are coordinating resources and information to prepare for the impact of this storm.
The Virginia Emergency Operations Center was activated this morning at 8 a.m. to monitor the storm and to coordinate preparedness efforts with local, state and federal officials.
Recommendations for Virginians
Coastal Virginians should learn their evacuation zone at KnowYourZoneVA.org. If internet or computer access is not available, call 2-1-1 to learn your zone. Residents not residing in a pre-identified evacuation zone would listen to evacuation orders from local and state emergency agencies to determine if and when to evacuate.
Virginians residing in eastern and coastal Virginia should continue to monitor the latest forecasts, follow official sources on social media and develop or update their emergency preparedness plan. Planning resources are available at VAemergency.gov/make-a-plan.
For a list of recommended emergency supplies to sustain your household before, during and after the storm visit VAemergency.gov/supply-kit. Additional preparedness information is available at VAemergency.gov/hurricanes and the Commonwealth’s hurricane evacuation guide for coastal Virginians is available at KnowYourZoneVA.org.
Virginians should follow the Virginia Department of Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook for preparedness updates and their local National Weather Service office for the latest weather forecast, advisories, watches or warnings. Download the FEMA app on your smartphone to receive mobile alerts from the National Weather Service.
Humane Society’s plea for adopters and fosters in response to COVID-19
To all animal lovers, the Humane Society of Warren County has a few announcements:
- Hours are changing: HSWC will be closed on Sundays until further notice.
- We are operating by appointment only!
- This Friday and Saturday, 4/3/2020 and 4/4/2020, we will extend our hours for adoption appointments. We will schedule appointments from 10am-6pm.
- You must have an approved application for an appointment and they can be found on our website.
- Adoption fees will be waived through Saturday, 4/4/2020. Please share far and wide!
WE NEED YOUR HELP!
Now more than ever, we need adopters and foster homes. We are preparing for the worst at this point, as we are entering kitten season and we don’t want to be inundated with more animals than we can handle. HSWC currently has 111 animals in our care and anticipate those numbers rising in the coming months.
Several staff members have already chosen to self-quarantine, and we have had to cut hours for staff members; layoffs are merely days away. Much of the work — cleaning, feeding and walking — is falling on a skeleton crew. Meanwhile, adoption events and fundraisers — the life blood of our organization — have been cancelled.
A new pet offers a way to help ease the isolation that comes with orders to shelter in place. Animals provide company and comfort during times of uncertainty. Being forced to stay home is not only optimal for house training, but it gives humans and their new animals plenty of time to bond.
We absolutely do not want to resort to euthanasia as a source of population control, which many shelters are facing the harsh reality of this being a possibility.
If you are not in a position to foster or adopt, please consider making a donation – whether it be companion animal food for our pet food pantry or monetary. We want to keep our pantry stocked and available for members of the community who are financially strapped due to the virus. Before this all started, HSWC was already helping nearly 50 families with pet food.
If you are interested in adopting or fostering, please fill out an adoption/foster application on our website and call us at 540-635-4734.
AG Herring takes further steps to crackdown on price gouging
~ Herring has sent warning letters to 42 businesses about which Virginians have complained ~
RICHMOND (March 31, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has taken further actions to crack down on price gouging in Virginia by sending warning letters to certain businesses about which Virginians have complained. The letters inform the businesses that they are the subject of a price-gouging complaint, ask for documentation pertaining to the complaint, and advise the businesses to immediately stop any illegal price gouging practices. So far, Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section has sent 42 letters to businesses in response to complaints made by Virginians.
“It is unfortunate that businesses will take advantage of a situation like a public health crisis to try and make more money off of necessary goods like hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, face masks, or water,” said Attorney General Herring. “My office and I take price gouging complaints very seriously and I hope that these letters will send a strong message to businesses across Virginia that price gouging will not be tolerated here.”
The letters explain that the Office of the Attorney General has the authority to investigate possible violations of Virginia’s Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act and to bring enforcement actions to enjoin violations, seek restitution for affected consumers, and recover civil penalties, attorney’s fees, and expenses. The letters seek certain documentation from the businesses regarding their pricing practices before and after Governor Ralph Northam’s declaration of a state of emergency on March 12, 2020. Importantly, the letters warn the businesses that the failure to cease and desist from engaging in any unlawful price gouging may be considered evidence of a willful violation for purposes of an award of civil penalties under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.
Governor Ralph Northam’s declaration of a state of emergency triggered Virginia’s Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act, which prohibits a supplier from charging “unconscionable prices” for “necessary goods and services” during the thirty-day period following a declared state of emergency. Items and services covered by these protections include but are not limited to water, ice, food, cleaning products, hand sanitizers, medicines, personal protective gear and more. The basic test for determining if a price is unconscionable is whether the post-disaster price grossly exceeds the price charged for the same or similar goods or services during the ten days immediately prior to the disaster.
Additionally, last week Attorney General Herring joined 32 attorneys general in urging Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart, and Craigslist to more rigorously monitor price gouging practices by online sellers who are using their services.
Suspected violations of Virginia’s Anti-Price Gouging Act should be reported to Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section for investigation, as violations are enforceable by the Office of the Attorney General through the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.
Consumers can contact Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section for information or file a complaint:
Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – March 30, 2020
Governor Northam issues statewide stay at home order
Governor Ralph Northam today, March 30, 2020, issued a statewide Stay at Home order to protect the health and safety of Virginians and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. The executive order takes effect immediately and will remain in place until June 10, 2020, unless amended or rescinded by a further executive order.
The order directs all Virginians to stay home except in extremely limited circumstances. Individuals may leave their residence for allowable travel, including to seek medical attention, work, care for family or household members, obtain goods and services like groceries, prescriptions, and others as outlined in Executive Order Fifty-Three, and engage in outdoor activity with strict social distancing requirements.
The executive order also directs all Virginia institutions of higher education to stop in-person classes and instruction. Private campgrounds must close for short-term stays, and beaches will be closed statewide except for fishing and exercise.
“We are in a public health crisis, and we need everyone to take this seriously and act responsibly,” said Governor Northam. “Our message to Virginians is clear: stay home. We know this virus spreads primarily through human-to-human contact, and that’s why it’s so important that people follow this order and practice social distancing. I’m deeply grateful to everyone for their cooperation during this unprecedented and difficult time.”
Last week, Governor Northam issued Executive Order Fifty-Three closing certain non-essential businesses, prohibiting public gatherings of more than 10 people, and directing all K-12 schools to remain closed for the rest of the academic year. A Frequently Asked Questions guide about Executive Order Fifty-Three can be found here.
For the latest information about the COVID-19 outbreak, visit virginia.gov/coronavirus or CDC.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.