July 17, 2020: 1,002 new cases, $1.25 in business funding and 58 percent tax revenue

Today’s edition materializes thanks to the French Press, open every day from 7 to 7 in Waynesboro for delicious coffee and light treats. Cool snacks, and cold and frozen bevvies. Order in advance on the @cloosiv app or call ahead 540.221.6568. See you there at the French Press? 

The number of cases of COVID-19 in Virginia has increased by another 1,002 cases, and the percent positive rate rate for all testing encounters has risen to 7.4 percent. That number was 7.1 percent on Thursday. There have now been 2,013 fatalities. Yesterday the Health District reported another 14 new cases and today reported another 23 cases for a cumulative total of 1,335 cases. Since Wednesday, that’s ten new cases in Albemarle, 15 in Charlottesville, four in Greene, three in Fluvanna, four in Louisa and 1 in Nelson. There have been 29 fatalities but none reported since July 7. The positive percentage rate is 7.4 percent for the PCR test, and 7.2 for all tests. 

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The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will meet sometime next week to discuss what steps the county might take to prevent further spread of COVID-19. The six elected officials brought the matter up at the end of Wednesday’s meeting after getting a briefing from health officials. Here’s Supervisor Donna Price of the Scottsville District.

“I think there was a fairly strong consensus about concern over moving from phase two to phase three, but the board did not take a formal vote and did not take a formal action,” Price said. 

Some supervisors are concerned that the large gathering permitted under Phase Three of the Forward Virginia plan will lead to more infections, and some want to tell Governor Ralph Northam to go back to Phase 2, which limited gatherings to 50 people or fewer. Supervisors aren’t scheduled to meet again until August 5, but Price said there is a need for a special meeting. 

“What we’re anticipating is a meeting next week where we will have more information from the Virginia Department of Health,” Price said. “We’re looking to have consultation with the city of Charlottesville, UVA. Obviously from my perspective we’re going to also include the town of Scottsville.”  

Price said she is concerned about what the next few months may be like and is concerned many have become fatigued by physical distancing and facial covering guidelines. The supervisor made her comments at the virtual meeting of the 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee. 

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A local group that studies public policy in the area reports that tourism activity was down 58 percent in March and April. The Free Enterprise Forum reviewed transient occupancy and meals tax records from Albemarle and Charlottesville in its research. Neil Williamson is the organization’s president. 

“The fact that tourism activity is down 58 percent is dramatic,” Williamson said “ You have to remember that the taxes are collected one month after the activity occurs, so when you look at May taxes, it’s really reflecting April activity. In May 2020, the city collected nearly 50 percent less, about a million dollars less, in meals tax revenue compared to 2019 or even 2018. 

Williamson said the Free Enterprise Forum will continue to look at the numbers. When asked what steps he would recommend to improve those numbers, he urged people to follow the guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19. (blog post)

“I think it’s critically important that customers and employees follow the protocols. It is for the safety of everyone to follow the safety protocols,” Williamson said. “Wear the mask.” 

This week, Albemarle County launched an initiative to help businesses get through the downturn in the economy. The $1.25 million Lift Grant program will provide some funding for up to 100 small businesses. Roger Johnson is the county’s economic development director.

“We want to provide aid to small businesses, all businesses in Albemarle County, giving a preference to women, minority and veteran owned businesses, as well as the hospitality and tourism industry. As for why we gave preference to the tourism industry, they have a direct economic impact in our community of over $400 million.” 

A webinar will be held on the Lift Grant program on July 27 at noon. (press release)

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The University of Virginia has released its latest plans for on Grounds opening for the fall semester. Students will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning, and must have a negative COVID-19 test to attend in-person classes. The plan has details about how UVA will hire a third-party vendor to provide tests for students. All students, faculty and staff will be required to have a daily health check and must wear facial coverings. Everyone on Grounds will be given a touch tool to open doors, and there will be 2,600 free-standing hand sanitizer stations. Dining rooms will be open at 50 percent capacity, but takeout options will be increased. More information can be found in the five-page plan. (the plan)

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