March 13, 2020 - The City of Hampton will close its facilities to the public beginning Monday, March 16, to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Libraries and community centers will be open for scheduled hours this weekend.
Hampton Coliseum and Hampton Roads Convention Center events this weekend have been canceled, and other special events -- a Census kickoff and budget input meeting -- have also been canceled. At this time, courts are scheduled to be open on Monday.
City Manager Mary Bunting noted that the "decision was not made lightly, but was easier once we concluded that virtually all public needs of officials can be met electronically or by phone." Employees will continue to report to work.
"By taking this action, we can protect our city employees from possible exposures but also help with the slowing of the spread of this disease throughout the community," said Bunting.
The decision will apply for the two-week period beginning Monday, March 16th and extending through Sunday, March 29th. The city will revisit all of these decisions based on updated guidance from the Virginia Department of Health and Governor’s Office declarations, but generally expect to consider such matters in two-week increments.
"I regret that we have to take such drastic measures, but believe our foremost responsibility is to ensure public safety within our reasonable ability," noted Bunting.
The city has had a special task force at work for more than two weeks focusing on the safety of both residents and employees. City officials and responders have developed a protocol for responding to emergencies and continue to look at the best way to respond to concerns about the disease.
Effective Friday at 12 p.m., Bunting issued a local declaration of emergency due to the public health threat caused by COVID-19. As with a natural disaster such as a hurricane, flood, or tornado event, the declaration allows the city to take action to prevent, mitigate or alleviate loss, hardship, and suffering that can be caused during an emergency.
Also Friday, Gov. Ralph Northam ordered all public K-12 schools in Virginia to close for a minimum of two weeks, starting Monday, March 16. "We are taking this action to keep Virginians as safe and healthy as possible, and to minimize exposure to COVID-19. I recognize this will pose a hardship on many families, but closing our schools for two weeks will not only give our staff time to clean and disinfect school facilities, it will help slow the spread of this virus."
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can infect humans or animals. Most people become infected with coronaviruses that cause the common cold at some point during their lives. However, three types – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS), and the new SARS-CoV-2, recently discovered in China – can cause severe respiratory infections.
The immediate risk is low for the general U.S. population. Most U.S. cases have involved people who had been traveling; however, there has been person-to-person cases spread abroad and in the United States.
Officials from the city, the schools, and the public health department have been meeting regularly to monitor the spread of the disease. They recommend that citizens make some preparations, similar to stockpiling what you would have on hand in case of a hurricane: medical records, extra prescription medicine, food for 14 days, cough and cold medicines. Many cases are mild, but some have been severe and caused death.
Also, it is still flu season, and several strains of the flu continue to be active in Virginia. Tips from the Centers for Disease Control for safeguarding against both the flu and the coronavirus include: Staying home when you are sick, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, washing your hands frequently and cleaning surfaces more frequently.
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