Virginians adjust to new normal as more things close down

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginians began adjusting Monday to living with the threat of the new coronavirus, a new reality that left elected officials and business owners struggling to decide what should stay open and what should close.
The state said Monday the total number of people who tested positive in Virginia for the virus was 51 and reported the second virus-related death.
With schools across the state closed, large gatherings banned and much of the state’s workforce encouraged to work at home, many businesses opted to close down, too.
The management at Edo’s Squid, an Italian restaurant in Richmond, decided to close down indefinitely.
“It just seemed for the general safety of our staff and everyone involved we should not have a bunch of people in here breathing on each other,” said manager Chris Pollard. “It just seemed like the right thing to do.”
At Home Team Grill, a sports bar and restaurant in Glen Allen, manager Layla Collier said the virus has already affected business. Collier said the cancellation of the remainder of the NBA season, the NCAA basketball tournament and other sporting events has left little for the sports bar to show patrons on its giant flat-screen TVs.
“This is a first-time type of thing. There’s no blueprint or map for this. We’ll do the best we can. We can figure it out as we go along,” Collier said.
State officials said Monday a hospitalized man in his 70s died of respiratory failure after acquiring the virus through an unknown source. The first Virginia victim, whose death was reported Saturday, was also a man in his 70s who contracted the virus from an unknown source. Both men were located in southeast Virginia, which has been hit by a cluster of coronavirus cases.
Many public functions were put on hold. Virginia’s Supreme Court announced it was ordering a suspension of all nonessential court proceedings until next month and state regulators ordered a 60-day moratorium on electric, gas and water companies from disconnecting service to customers.
Virginia’s historic state Capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson, closed to the public through the end of the month. Lawmakers finished up their legislative session last week, though there are growing calls from some legislators to convene a special session to deal with the fallout from the coronavirus.
About a dozen other states have already ordered bars and restaurants to close, including neighboring Maryland. But Virginia so far has not, prompting some local officials to take action.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney urged all establishments that serve food and drink to eliminate bar seating, move tables at least six feet apart and cut on-site service to half their capacity, or less. Restaurants will still be allowed to offer carryout and delivery.
“This measure is taken in an abundance of caution and in the interest of the health of restaurant patrons and staff,” Stoney said in a statement.
Pollard, who manages Edo’s Squid, said he and other employees are trying to figure out if they will be eligible for temporary unemployment benefits or for other government assistance.
“The longer it lasts, the harder it’s going to be for everyone,” he said.
Stoney said his administration is exploring options for a program to issue small, no-interest loans to small businesses and is also proposing an amnesty program for all penalties and interest on most local taxes due between March 13 and June 30.
Sentara Healthcare also announced Monday that it was setting up drive-thru screening and testing centers in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Williamsburg for people who suspect they have the virus. The healthcare system also said it was banning visitors to its hospitals, with some exceptions. Newborns can have two visitors. So can patients who are dying.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
The outbreak has caused more than 7,000 deaths out of about 179,000 cases worldwide.
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