This live blog will be updated with recent developments. For more coverage of the local response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, check this round-up of previous coverage.
Charlottesville and Albemarle County announced ongoing changes to local government operations and extended some closures of city offices into April.
Charlottesville city officials said they would consider closing some city parks entirely if the public continues to congregate above safe public health recommendations.
In a mid-day update, the Thomas Jefferson Health District said that as of noon, there now are 36 confirmed COVID-19 cases & 4 clinically diagnosed cases:
Albemarle: 18 (includes 2 clinically diagnosed)
Charlottesville: 10 (includes 1 clinically diagnosed)
Outside: 1 clinically diagnosed (contact to a TJHD case)
The Charlottesville Office of Elections and Voter Registration is now closed to the public.
Beginning Monday, March 30, the office will be staffed to answer phones and email, Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Voter Registration Office has begun preparations for a June 9 dual primary for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, according to a Friday news release.
Most voters may register to vote or submit an absentee ballot online at the Department of Elections website.
Due to COVID-19, it is highly recommended that voters request a mailed absentee ballot using reason code 2A on the absentee ballot application. The department also will accept applications via regular mail, email (email@example.com) and fax (434) 970-3249.
The Voter Registration Office said it will provide more information about this election as deadlines approach and it receives further guidance from the Department of Elections.
Thursday, March 26 updates
The University's of Virginia's fundraising page has been updated with an option to contribute to a fund for students experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19.
The "Student Life and Leadership Fund" is a longstanding rainy day fund for students hit with unexpected expenses, according to the university.
UVa's Student Council also has set up a fund for students.
Researchers at the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute have won a new $10 million, five-year “Expeditions in Computing” grant from the National Science Foundation to use innovative technological and scientific advancements to plan for, and respond to, epidemics and pandemics.
The effort, which includes epidemiologists at UVa as well as at Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Virginia Tech and two national laboratories, is working with local, regional, national and international public health agencies and universities to apply and deploy new technologies – many developed at the UVa Biocomplexity Institute – to predict and manage current and future epidemics.
The project is designed to improve epidemic planning and response by providing computational tools to epidemiologists worldwide; increasing surveillance of disease-spreading conditions; using weather and climate forecasting to likewise forecast epidemics; provide planning tools to policymakers to help in the allocation of resources such as vaccines and ventilators; and studying how social and political structures affect disease progression.
Wednesday, March 25 updates
A 4 p.m. update from the Thomas Jefferson Health District noted 22 lab confirmed cases of COVID-19 as well as three clinically diagnosed cases in the following list of localities:
Albemarle - 9
Fluvanna - 3
Greene - 0
Louisa - 4
Nelson - 1
Unknown (still determining address) - 1
The National Park Service Wednesday afternoon said it would close the popular Shenandoah National Park loops at Old Rag and Whiteoak Canyon due to overcrowding.
The amount of motorists and hikers have made it difficult to follow social distancing guidelines, the service said.
For more information about other changes in the park, go to the service's website.
Other popular hikes in the Blue Ridge have been closing due to similar concerns. Check signs and postings before you go.
Tuesday, March 24
The Thomas Jefferson Health District on Tuesday confirmed 14 presumptive positive cases in the district.
There are three cases in the city of Charlottesville; six cases in Albemarle County; three cases in Louisa County; one case in Nelson County and one case in Fluvanna County, officials said.
There are also two clinically diagnosed cases. One is in Charlottesville and one lives outside of the district but has had close contact with a confirmed positive person in the district, officials said.
Clinically diagnosed cases are individuals who are not tested because they are very close contacts (like a spouse) to someone who is lab-confirmed COVID-19 positive and are experiencing symptoms.
Due to their level of exposure and symptoms, the Virginia Department of Health considers clinically diagnosed cases positive without a COVID-19 lab test, the district said -- For example, a clinically diagnosed case could be the spouse of a lab confirmed COVID-19 case.
Monday, March 23
Area grocery stores are now implementing senior hours, allowing senior citizens to get in and out of stores quickly.
Between 9 and 10 a.m., Trader Joe's will maintain an additional line outside of the store for senior customers.
"This will ensure that those customers in need will have an expedited entrance to the store to help make their experience a more positive one," a press release stated.
At Target, the first hour of shopping on Wednesdays, 8 to 9 a.m., will be reserved for elderly customers, as well as people with underlying health concerns.
Giant Food Stores will reserve 6 to 7 a.m. every day of the week for seniors and people with compromised immune systems to shop in-store.
Guests of Whole Foods who are 60 or older can shop the store starting at 7 a.m., while the store opens to the general public at 8 a.m.
Every Tuesday and Thursday from 8 to 9 a.m., members 60 and older can shop at Costco ahead of the general public. Those special hours begin Tuesday, March 24.
Big Lots also has reserved the first operating hour of the day for senior customers and those with underlying health conditions, who are most vulnerable to the virus.
The City of Charlottesville Neighborhood Development Services offices are now closed to the public.
Staff will continue to process currently submitted applications remotely and send notice to applicants by email or phone. Modified inspections will continue. No new Development Review applications will be accepted at this time. Applications and fees for building mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire permits may be submitted through USPS. Forms are available online and those with questions on the application process, zoning issues and property maintenance code violations can contact the office during working hours at (434) 970-3182.
The city's parks and trails remain open; however, playgrounds are closed and now tennis courts and basketball courts also are closed.
The Charlottesville Skate Park and Meadowcreek Golf Course are closed and the public is asked to refrain from going to those locations.
More information about city closures and adjustments is available here.
Sunday, March 22 updates
The University of Virginia said that most hospital patients now will be unable to receive visitors in order to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. Read the story.
Saturday, March 21 updates
On Saturday afternoon, the Thomas Jefferson Health District announced there were 9 confirmed cases in the district, broken down as:
Albemarle - 4
Charlottesville - 3
Fluvanna - 1
Greene - 0
Louisa - 1
Nelson - 0
The numbers mark an increase of one for Albemarle County and Louisa County's first case.
County officials provided more information about the Louisa case Saturday.
The district said it aims to provide updated numbers on its Facebook and Twitter by 6 p.m. every day.
Friday, March 20 updates
As the number of local confirmed cases in Central Virginia increased slightly Friday, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital said two people have tested positively.
It is not clear if either of those patients have been hospitalized, or just had tests conducted by hospital staff.
A spokeswoman for the hospital said the employee health department works with any staff who may have had contact with the patient to provide further guidance on their individual situation.
Until further notice, Albemarle County playgrounds and pavilions are closed, the county said in a news release Friday afternoon.
Instead, the county said, residents are encouraged to use trails and other open spaces while still encouraging Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and maintaining social distancing.
The City of Charlottesville will postpone next week's City Council meetings related to the FY 2021 budget, a spokesman said in a news release Friday afternoon.
This includes the community budget forum (March 24) and the Capital Improvement Program work session (March 26).
Additional updates about the city's budget calendar and community input opportunities will be provided in the near future, according to the release.
All other previously scheduled public meetings of City Boards and Commissions are also cancelled for the week of March 23rd.
More information on changes to city operations can be found here.
The United States Attorneys for the Western and Eastern Districts of Virginia, the FBI, and the Virginia State Police are working to protect the residents of Virginia from fraud and exploitation arising from the current coronavirus pandemic through the formation of the Virginia Coronavirus Task Force.
The joint federal and state group will identify, investigate and prosecute fraud related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in Virginia.
Some scams may include treatment scams selling fake cures; supply scams claiming to sell medical goods; provider scams by people pretending to be health care workers; charity scams; phishing; app scams designed to track the spread of COVID-19 that insert malware onto a device; or investment scams.
To report fraud, please contact:
Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator, Assistant United States Attorney Michael Baudinet, (540) 278-1494.
FBI at: https://www.ic3.gov or (804) 261-1044.
For continuing information on the COVID-19 virus and the federal response, check: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
Virginia Department of Health’s Thomas Jefferson Health District confirmed Friday the first case of coronavirus in Fluvanna County.
Albemarle County's Chief of Police Ron Lantz said that one of his employees has tested positive.
TJHD now has a total of seven positive COVID-19 cases, according to the release, including three in Charlottesville and one in Albemarle County.
Thursday, March 19 updates
The University of Virginia late Thursday evening said that one of the recent confirmed cases in Central Virginia is of a student who lives off-Grounds in Albemarle County.
The University of Virginia Medical Center will, starting at 7 a.m. Friday, restrict visitation to one designated visitor in the inpatient units at the medical center, including the emergency department, the UVa Outpatient Surgery Center and all UVa outpatient clinics.
Visitation will be limited to 10 a.m. to noon and 6 to 8 p.m. daily.
Visitation remains suspended at the UVa Transitional Care Hospital.
The changes come amid other shifts and adjustments at the UVa hospital. More information is available at the medical center's website.
Albemarle County has extended the deadline to apply for the real property tax exemption for elderly and disabled persons from April 1 to May 16.
More information on qualifications and how to apply can be found at albemarle.org/finance under the real estate tax relief programs tab.
Thursday morning, the Thomas Jefferson Health District announced three more people in Charlottesville have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Charlottesville's treasury office has suspended all collections for past-due taxes and fees, the city announced Thursday morning.
Taxpayers who received a personal property tax supplement originally due on April 3, now will have a delayed due date of April 17.
The assessment of past due penalty and interest on all local taxes has been suspended until May 31.
Businesses responsible for remitting meals and lodging tax are encouraged to file timely returns and set up appropriate payment arrangements with the city.
Taxpayers are encouraged to use alternative means of communication with the City during the duration of City Hall’s closure to the public such as drop boxes, online payments, and email and phone communication, the city said.
The Jefferson-Madison Regional Library has announced a temporary e-library card program to help local readers who are self-quarantined.
E-library resources includes access to books, magazines, movies, and databases through the use of providers like Overdrive/Libby, rbDigital, Freading, Kanopy, and more.
To sign up for this card, please visit jmrl.org/librarycard.
If a patron already has a JMRL library card, they do not need to sign up for a temporary e-library card.
For links to JMRL’s elibrary, please visit JMRL’s blog at jmrlblog.com/2020/03/14/available-online-resources/.
Wednesday, March 18 updates
Albemarle County said Wednesday that turnaround times on some services may be reduced and some public access to buildings will be restricted.
Visitor entrances at the McIntire Road County Office Building now are restricted to the main side visitors’ entrance and the Community Development North Wing Entrance.
Visitors will only be permitted on first floor of the building. Front desk personnel will call the appropriate department to have personnel meet the visitor and conduct business in the lobby.
Finance payments are strongly encouraged to be conducted online or by phone, self-service kiosk, or payment dropoff methods.
At the Fire Rescue Administration building, the visitor's entrance will be shifted to badge-access only.
At the 5th Street building, police and social service visitors will be restricted to the lobby, except with escort.
At the elections office, business is encouraged by phone. If face-to-face interaction is required, an employee will meet the customer outside or in a well-ventilated room that allows social distancing.
Many services, such as dog licenses, filing a police report and applying for benefits can be done online.
Tuesday, March 17 updates
The Charlottesville Police Department will modify its responses to non-emergency calls, the department said late Tuesday.
CPD will continue to respond to emergency calls, according to a spokesman, but will expand its Telephone Reporting Unit, which will now answer calls 24/7.
The following crimes can be reported online: annoying phone calls, credit card fraud, fraud-false pretenses, identity theft, wire fraud, larcenies, pocket picking, lost property, past suspicious activities, tows and vandalism.
The telephone unit can take non-emergency reports at (434) 977-9041 or (434) 970-3280. Residents can report all of the above crimes, past assaults, harassment, landlord/tenant/non-physical disputes and evictions and previous trespassing.
Non-emergency calls about the following incidents can be made to: (434) 977-9041. Residents can report animal complaints, traffic hazards, traffic complaints, parking violations with the exception of public safety hazards, open containers of alcohol, noise complaints and other non-emergency situations.
When in doubt, though, residents should call 911.
The City of Charlottesville announced several adjustments Tuesday, including staffing changes and the decision to make the Charlottesville Area Transit system fare-free for the duration of the local emergency.
The city said it will only ask essential employees to report to work starting Wednesday, and will close most City Hall facilities to the public.
This staffing plan will be in effect for at least the next two weeks and will be reevaluated on March 29, according to a news release.
The public is encouraged to use all available online and telephonic options for conducting business at City Hall, as well as payment drop boxes at City Hall and the drive through drop box located between the City Hall Annex and the Key Recreation Center.
The Neighborhood Development Services team will be accessible to the public needing to conduct essential business with that department and through the Market Street entrance to City Hall only.
The office will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays (with permit intake until 11 a.m.). Customers can reach NDS at (434) 970-3182. There will be no one-on-one in person consultations at this time.
In effort to maximize social distancing and provide an additional layer of protection for drivers, CAT will eliminate front-door access on all buses. All users will be able to enter the bus through the rear doors.
City Manager Tarron Richardson has authorized a fare-free period until the state of emergency ends.
More information about schedule changes and office closures can be found on the city's website, https://www.charlottesville.org/departments-and-services/departments-a-g/city-manager-s-office/communications/city-hall-updates-related-to-the-coronavirus-covid-19
Albemarle County schools will be closed at least through April 10, the end of spring break, the division announced Tuesday.
Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered schools to close for at least two weeks until March 27 in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. The county schools’ decision to keep schools closed longer comes as states and communities are taking drastic steps to prevent the virus from spreading further and the Virginia Department of Education announced it was looking to cancel state SOL testing.
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention said late last week that closing schools for two weeks wouldn’t have much impact on containing a virus.
“We are continuing to closely monitor developments on the spread of COVID-19 and the most current health and safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and from the state Department of Health,” Superintendent Matt Haas said in a news release. “Based upon that information, it is clear that public meeting restrictions will not be lifted in the near future.”
Charlottesville City Schools has said it will be closed at least until March 27 and is following the governor’s guidance about school closures.
Haas said in the release that he is extending the closure to assist with the school division’s planning on how to continue to deliver services to students and families at home and to provide as much advance notice to parents as possible so that they have as much time as possible to make necessary child care arrangements.
The division’s spring break is scheduled to begin April 3.
Haas told students that teachers will be reaching out about ways they can stay engaged with learning and shared a webpage with resources.
The division also has extended its Wi-Fi access to the school parkings lots for students to use.
In a message to students, Haas said he too was disappointed that spring school activities have been canceled or put on hold.
“I am sorry about that, and I hope we will have a chance to make it up to you,” he wrote.
He also encouraged students to write an email or card to a family member and friend and to get outside.
“If you don’t already keep a journal, this time is a great opportunity to start one,” he wrote. “As I told a student last week, coronavirus now is a part of your life’s story and of our history.”
Graduation ceremonies for Virginia’s community colleges, including Piedmont Virginia Community College, are canceled, Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the community college system, announced Tuesday.
DuBois made the decision following a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation to cancel or postpone gatherings of 50 or more people over the next eight weeks, a guideline Gov. Ralph Northam echoed Tuesday morning when he said the state would ban gatherings of more than 10 people.
DuBois wrote in a letter that the colleges will honor the achievements of graduating students later when it it safe for students, families, faculty and staff.
“What’s difficult is that the very things that make these ceremonies meaningful also make them dangerous in this pandemic,” he wrote. “While it’s a celebration of individual achievements, it’s a community celebration. Many of the same family members who travel far and wide to attend are at particularly high risk with this virus. And the hugs and high-fives that come naturally to so many of us in that moment fly in the face of the social distancing practices we are asked to observe.”
PVCC decided last week to switch to online courses.
UVa has said it will make a decision about graduation ceremonies by April 15.
At the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA, staff members are still going to work but visitors are only allowed by appointment to limit the number of people entering the premises. The SPCA rummage store is closing for the next two weeks, effective Tuesday, and public spay/neuter services have been suspended, according to the organization
“Many people have reached out asking how they can help the animals in our care,” said Angie Gunter, chief executive office of the CASPCA, in a news release. “The most urgent need at the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA is for animals to get out through adoption or foster.”
The organization highlighted a World Health Organization statement that there is no evidence that dogs, cats or other companion animals spread the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
“We hope that people will make an appointment to adopt or foster a pet to spend time with while they're at home,” Gunter said.
For more information on adopting or fostering, go to http://caspca.org/.
The Jefferson Area Board for Aging is suspending operations at its community senior centers and the Charlottesville Adult Care Center as well as closing its Charlottesville office to visitors.
The senior centers are stopping operations Tuesday along with meal operations. The adult care center will stop operations Friday.
For those who relied on the senior centers for daily meals, JABA said in its announcement that it's working to arrange home delivery.
For more information about JABA’s operations and what older adults need to know about COVID-19, go to https://www.jabacares.org/covid-19-jaba-operations-update.
The Charlottesville Police Department is suspending front counter services and is closing facilities to the public.
In-person requests for police reports, fingerprinting services and taxi cab license registrations will be suspended until further notice, the department said Tuesday.
Sex offender registrations and updates will continue.
During this time, members of the public can request police reports and crash reports by emailing RecordsTeam@charlottesville.org, calling (434) 970-3280, faxing (434) 970-3233 or sending mail to 606 East Market Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902, ATTN: Records.
Please call 911 to report an emergency, or (434) 977-9041 for non-emergency requests.
Local Social Security offices, including the Charlottesville office in Pantops, will be closed starting Tuesday, but staff members will be available over the phone.
“This decision protects the population we serve—older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions—and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” officials with the Social Security Administration wrote in a news release. “However, we are still able to provide critical services.”
For Social Security services, individuals can go online at socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices to apply for retirement, disability or other benefits and find more information.
The local offices will be still conducting business over the phone. The administration's field office locator has information on how to get into touch with local staff members.
Calls might come from a private number, and the news release notes that Social Security employees will not threaten individuals or ask for any form of payment.
Starting Wednesday, Charlottesville Area Transit’s Downtown Transit Station will reduce its hours of operation in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
CAT buses will continue to run their regular routes, though CAT staff are using CDC-approved cleaning materials to disinfect all high-touch areas on buses and in facilities.
The downtown station will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more updates, go to www.catchthecat.org.
Many local businesses, events, organizations and offices are changing their hours and offerings amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Please check with a location before you visit for the most up-to-date information.