IW, Smfd. declare state of emergency, schools to close

Published 8:10 pm Friday, March 13, 2020

Isle of Wight County and the Town of Smithfield have declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 situation, which follows a similar declaration yesterday by Gov. Ralph Northam. 

Northam has also ordered all public K-12 schools to close for the next two weeks, at a minimum, to combat the spread of the virus. 

“We are taking this action to keep Virginians as safe and healthy as possible, and to minimize exposure to COVID-19,” said Governor Northam. “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. This is a fluid and fast-changing situation. We will do everything possible to ensure that students who rely on school nutrition programs continue to have access to meals, and that the disruption to academics is as minimal as possible,” said Northam. 

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Isle of Wight County schools spokesperson Lynn Briggs said the schools had not received advance notice on this directive, which was issued around 2 p.m., but will put together a plan to address instructional needs during that time, as well assisting those who receive free and reduced lunches. Monday, March 16 was a planned student holiday anyway, so it is hoped that staff can come in and start working on these issues, said Briggs. 

Briggs encourages parents, students and family members to monitor the division’s Facebook, Twitter and Connect 5 sites for updates and further information. 

By issuing a state of emergency, local governments can get easier access to funding, if necessary, said Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson. 

The Virginia Department of Health stated today that there are 30 presumptive positive and confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Commonwealth, and of those, there are 10 hospitalizations and no deaths. The closest cases to Isle of Wight are seven in James City County and two in Virginia Beach. 

Isle of Wight County tourism cancelled the St. Patrick’s Day parade and Farmers Market Saturday as an added precaution.