FRONT ROYAL – Town and county leaders gathered together Thursday evening to update citizens on the ongoing efforts at the local level to fight the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic that landed in Warren County late last week.
The Virginia Department of Health announced Thursday that Warren County has a confirmed COVID-19 case — its first reported confirmation. Dr. Colin Greene, director of the Lord Fairfax Health District, said Thursday that there is a second confirmed case in Warren County.
Before the confirmed cases, county officials put measures into place to make sure they were prepared for the virus arriving at its borders. Although the county has an emergency response team to respond to problems such as COVID-19, this pandemic is unusual, said County Administrator Doug Stanley.
Response to the virus has required businesses to shut their doors and families to close their homes. As a result, social isolation has become a double-edged sword in protecting individuals but also cutting off the social networks people in the town and county have spent years building.
Walter Mabe, chairman of the board of supervisors, encouraged everyone to take care to follow the instructions of town, county and state officials by continuing to separate themselves from other people whenever possible and trusting that the sacrifices now will pay off in the long run.
“It’s really important for you to take care of the individual,” Mabe said. “The individual is your family. If you self-quarantine because you’ve been tested by your doctor, it’s not just you. It’s everybody in your family.”
As important as the physical safeguards everyone puts in place, Mabe said the intellectual steps people take are vital to everyone’s health. Just because someone shares something on Facebook, Mabe said, doesn’t mean that it’s true.
“Please check any presumed facts you read,” Mabe said. “Check the information coming from friends.
“Don’t assume that every fact that you believe is being put out is a real fact,” Mabe continued. “I want you to know there’s no currently approved vaccine. There’s no magical pill that will make this go away.”
Most of the response in the last week has been issued in legal terms. To explain to citizens what Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive orders mean, John Bell, the commonwealth’s attorney for the county, explained that several of the previous recommendations now had the force of law behind them.
Bell described the different types of businesses addressed in Executive Order 53, which forced several non-essential businesses to shut their doors for the remainder of the crisis. Though businesses that are forced to shut down completely have received the most attention, Bell said most businesses are allowed to continue operating as long as they can maintain social distancing requirements between the staff and customers.
The measures governors around the country have taken are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect citizens, Bell said, not to hand more power over to local law enforcement agencies.
“The whole purpose of this is not to punish the public [or] to confine the public but to protect the most vulnerable among us,” Bell said. “We’re not interested in making this a power play by the police department, the Sheriff’s Office or the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. What we want to do is get the word out to try to get people to help each other and to try and be safe.”
Local governments have seen similar disruptions in their day-to-day operations as businesses and private citizens. Most public buildings are closed but the staff inside are still operating business as usual.
Matt Tedrick, the interim town manager, said the town prepares for disasters like this so it can continue to operate in the short term.
“All of our mission-critical operations are up and functioning,” he said. “We have months of inventory in anticipation of this pandemic ... we’re ready to operate and we’re ready to help the community.”
Every week town and county leaders will convene at 1 p.m. in the government center to provide an update on their efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.