By Randy Arrington
LURAY, April 23 — On Tuesday night, the Page County Board of Supervisors received an update on the local COVID-19 impact from Woody Brown, director of the county’s Emergency Medical Services.
“There are multiple projections based on different things,” Brown told the board, “but they said in Virginia, we are very near the peak for patients.”
The local EMS director cited a date of April 23 he received from the statewide EMS agency for the “peak of resources needed in hospitals.” Various models from across the country have projected a peak of COVID-19 cases in the Old Dominion anywhere between late April and early August.
“[State EMS] hired a contractor to take all of these studies and kind of put them together and see what they come up with,” Brown said. “They are projecting April 23 to be the peak, but it’s not set in stone. It could be a month out.”
In the last two days, Page County has reported eight new cases — six of those were hospitalized — for a total of 22 cases since March 31. When the EMS director gave his report Tuesday night, there were only 14 reported cases of COVID-19 in the county, with no hospitalizations.
“Their symptoms were not severe enough to be hospitalized,” Brown said. “Eleven were confirmed, and three were listed as ‘probable.’”
Brown reported that he and other county officials participate in daily online briefings with the Virginia Department of Health and other state agencies, as well as communicating regularly with neighboring jurisdictions.
He reported a brief concern with two EMS staff members recently coming in contact with or being exposed to the virus, but he noted they were isolated and later tested negative.
Calls for EMS have actually gone down, according to Brown. He reported that supplies were good for local staff and neighboring jurisdictions have been sharing resources.
Citing the same report from state EMS officials, Brown said a target reopen date for the state is June 8.
Supervisors quickly began to express a desire to do so — perhaps even a few weeks sooner.
“Some folks want some logic behind these decisions,” Supervisor Jeff Vaughn said during the live-streamed meeting on Tuesday. The District 5 representative cited Governor Ralph Northam’s closure of non-essential businesses.
“We need to truly consider what is going on in Page County,” Vaughn said. “They can do all the models they want, but we’re not Northern Virginia.”
In comparison to Page County’s six new cases reported overnight, Fairfax County — the state’s true “hot spot” reported 106 new cases. Fairfax currently has a total of 2,362 reported cases, with 431 hospitalizations and 76 deaths credited to COVID-19. The statewide death toll stands at 372 — up 23 since yesterday.
The supervisors will next meet on Tuesday, May 5 — once again closed to the public, but accessible through a livestream feed. The Governor’s current extension of business closures runs through May 8. On Tuesday night, supervisors clearly stated their intention to discuss a potential reopening in the county in two weeks.
“We have to put some sense to this, or we’re going to destroy our economy,” District 2 Supervisor Allen Louderback said, noting the particular need to lift the restriction on short-term rentals.
The board agreed to wait and see what the governor will do on or before May 8, with respect to closing non-essential businesses.
“At what point is there danger?” Chairman Morgan Phenix said. “Some businesses may be able to open, but if one of our main industries is tourism, we don’t want something that’s going to draw a large crowd.”
District 1 Supervisor Keith Guzy noted that decisions made in Page County could be affected by decisions in neighboring counties.
“Right now, Harrisonburg is one of the hottest spots in the state and a lot of people in Page County travel to Rockingham and Harrisonburg to work and shop,” Guzy said. “I just think we need to look at all of the facts and all of the numbers because this is not a quick decision.”
Brown told supervisors that federal and state guidelines already call for a period of 14 days of declining cases before considering opening up the community for business and increased interaction.
“Maybe that’s why we only had 14 [COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday] because we did shut it down,” District 4 Supervisor Larry Foltz said.
“Some things you could phase in,” Louderback added, citing six states that are preparing to reopen to business. “I just don’t think we can keep going with everything shut down.”
“I would hate to take us backwards by moving too soon,” Dr. Phenix replied.
“It’s a tough decision to make,” Vaughn added. “But we need to make some common sense decisions about running business. You look down every street and it looks like a dead zone. We gotta change that.”
“I know for cabin owners, mortages are still due and there’s no income,” District 3 Supervisor Mark Stroupe said. “They are looking for a date, but I don’t think we can set that date at this point.”
“Page County is supposed to be the Cabin Capital of Virginia,” Vaughn said. “We need to get this county going again…come the first of May, we need to do something.”
New to Page County, my family has deep roots in these hills that predate the settling of this here ‘cut’ by centuries. So some things have been confusing and strange from a cultural standpoint.
Writ large, in public spaces I see the kind of courtesy that reminds me I am in the Hills.
The impetus for ‘stay at home’ was to ‘flatten the curve’ which predicted peak never occured due to flawed models. Hospitals are laying people off if we believe the AP.
A Vaccine? good luck. 163 million flu shots in 2018 and look how well that worked out. ( sarcasm )
Look at the science, Epidemiologists tell us herd immunity is the off switch. I believe in science, and I believe in God.
“The first sip of natural science will make you an atheist, but God is waiting at the bottom of the glass’ Wish I could remember who said that.
My opinion only, we should trust God and accept establshed science. I applaud our supervisors for having this discussion.
Is this really a county where we believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights? Or was that a publicity stunt on Fox News?
Personally at age 59 having been under the knife seven tims I am scared of this virus. Should my fear require others to surrender their God Given rights?
Also have taken the oath of office seven times and gone ‘all in’ to uphold that a time or three. Do I now break by promise to man and God?
Would that it were my call, I would not. Watching with interest and intent to see how this unfolds. Good article btw.