Coronavirus: What You Need to Know

ATTENTION: City offices are closed until further notice to the public (as of March 17, 2020) to help slow the spread of germs. We encourage residents and businesses to conduct business with the City via online, email, phone, mail or drop box (outside City Hall, Creamery Building, Social Services Building, and Timbrook Public Safety Center). Most City public meetings are canceled until further notice. Downtown meters are free, 24/7 through April 30. Do NOT use public transit if you are sick or have symptoms and limit use to essential trips only.

DO YOUR PART, STAY HOME! (Now required by VA Executive Order 55)

HEARTS FOR HEROES: Decorate your front door or window with hearts to show appreciation of our local heroes during this difficult time. More info

Coronavirus banner

The City, CDC, Virginia Department of Health and the Lord Fairfax Health District (LFHD) are closely monitoring the international outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) and working with healthcare partners at the state and federal level. As of March 19, there are no confirmed cases in the LFHD.

Coronavirus is a new virus that has caused an outbreak of a respiratory illness. It was first detected in Wuhan, China in late December 2019. Exposure in the United States (as of March 2020) remains low as precautions and efforts to restrict travelers from the host area, and other highly infected countries, were taken early. It’s spread through close person-to-person contact (within 6 feet), respiratory droplets that are then inhaled (ex: when someone doesn’t cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze), and possibly from touching contaminated surfaces. Click here for regular updates on cases in the U.S

What To Do If You Are Sick

Click here for details from the CDC. 

  1. Stay home except to get medical care or food 
  2. Separate yourself from other people in your home (home isolation)
  3. Call ahead before visiting the doctor
  4. Wear a face mask when you are around other people only if you are sick or caring for others
  5. Cover your coughs and sneezes
  6. Wash your hands often
  7. Avoid sharing personal household items
  8. Clean all "high-touch" areas everyday
  9. Monitor your symptoms and know when to seek medical attention

Food Pantries, Donations & Volunteers

Food Pantries & Banks

Click here for a list of food pantries in the area.

Winchester Public Schools is also distributing free lunch and breakfast meals for students 18 and under at 12 locations throughout the city. More Info 

Visit VAFoodBanks.org for a list of food banks in Virginia.

Text FOOD or COMIDA to 877877 to learn more about feeding sites near you.

Making Donations

Click here for information about how the non-profit and private sector organizations can make donations to assist with the response effort. 

Valley Health is asking for help to collect 10,000 hand-sewn masks in TWO weeks to preserve PPE for our providers and staff who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle. If sewing isn't your strong suit, you can still be #sewhelpful by contributing supplies or monetary donations to go toward this cause. Click here for instructions, how-to videos, listed drop off locations and info on our limited supply of pre-cut mask kits.

Volunteering

Valley Health is offering several volunteer opportunities:

  1. Volunteer opportunities including answering phones, supporting staff and other general assistance. To be considered for available positions, apply here: http://app.jobvite.com/m?3IQPXlwa.​
  2. Essential clinical staff may need help with child care while schools are closed. If you would like to be added to a list of available child care professionals, apply here: https://app.jobvite.com/j?cj=oFBucfwG&s=Email.

Consider joining the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and apply today. 

Doing Business with the City

Local residents and businesses can conduct business with the City using the following resources:

  • Online – Visit www.winchesterva.gov for information, forms, etc. The direct link to the City’s online bill pay options is www.winchesterva.gov/bill-pay.
  • Phone, Email or Mail - For the staff and department directory, visit www.winchesterva.gov/department-listing.
  • Drop box - Drop off correspondence, completed forms, payments, etc. at drop boxes located outside City Hall (N. Cameron Street side), Creamery Building, and Timbrook Public Safety Center (top of stairs). For social services documents, use the drop box outside the WDSS office at 24 Baker Street.

COVID-19 Updates

Scroll down for updates from and regarding the City of Winchester or click here.

  • March 30, 2020 - VA Governor issues Executive Order 55 which directs all Virginians to stay home except in extremely limited circumstances. Individuals may leave their residence to seek medical attention, work, care for family or household members, obtain goods and services like food, prescriptions and others as outlined in EO 53, and engage in outdoor activity with strict social distancing requirements. Details
  • March 23, 2020 - VA Governor closes all public schools for rest of academic year. Additional restrictions for businesses will go into effect at midnight on March 24 (details on Executive Order 53 are available on the Governor's website). Gatherings of 10+ people are banned (does not include health care or medical services, access to essential services for low-income residents such as food banks, operations of the media, law enforcement agencies, or operations of government). Click here for FAQs relating to this order.
  • March 22, 2020 - Lord Fairfax Health District has first confirmed case. VDH News Releases
  • March 18, 2020 - The Virginia Department of Elections encourages voters to protect their health during COVID-19 outbreak. Voting absentee in the coming local May elections is strongly encouraged. Voters may choose reason "2A My disability or illness" for Absentee voting in the May 2020 elections due to COVID-19. Voters who choose the absentee option should do so as soon as possible so they can get their ballots in time to return them by mail by Election Day. More Info
  • March 17, 2020 - VA Governor issues Public Health Emergency Order and makes it mandatory for restaurants, fitness centers and theaters to adhere to 10-person gathering ban. Read ​Order
    • Clarification by the Commonwealth (March 20): It is the interpretation on of the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (VDACS) that the order issued by the Governor and State Health Commissioner regarding the restriction limiting the number of patrons at restaurants and similar establishments to ten (10), also applies to similar establishments or activities as regulated by the VDACS Food Safety Program, including farmers’ markets, areas at breweries wineries and distilleries that include tasting rooms, public taprooms, sit down sea ng areas within these facilities and any comparable retail operation such as convenience stores with food service and seating.
  • March 17, 2020 - Governor announces new measures to combat the virus. Read More
  • March 17, 2020 - Winchester Public Schools is offering free lunch and breakfast meals for pick up at 12 locations throughout the city. More Info 
  • March 15, 2020 - CDC recommends in-person events and gatherings with 50+ people be canceled or postponed. Read More
  • March 13, 2020 - President Trump declares State of Emergency for U.S.
  • March 12, 2020 - Virginia Governor declares State of Emergency and outlines additional measures to combat COVID-19. Read News Release
  • March 10, 2020 - The Lord Fairfax Health Department Director presented an overview of the Coronavirus to City Council. Review Presentation
  • January 30, 2020 - The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).

Information Resources

Rely on the below sites for up-to-date and accurate information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Topic FAQs
Coronavirus (CDC) Link
March 23, 2020 Executive Order
(VA Governor)
Link

Symptoms

The incubation time from exposure to showing symptoms is 5 days and in some cases 14 days, individuals who have been exposed but aren’t yet showing symptoms are asked to self quarantine for 14 days. Those who are most affected or are the most at-risk are individuals:

  • over 60 years old
  • with a compromised immune system such as cancer, diabetes, or on immunosuppressive medication
  • are pregnant
  • in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • with asthma
  • with HIV

The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Bluish lips or face

If you have traveled outside the U.S. (or anywhere with widespread or ongoing community spread of conoravirus) and are experiencing symptoms or think you have been exposed to the coronavirus, VDH strongly urges you to NOT go directly to your doctor, urgent care or hospital.

Do the following if you meet the above criteria: 

  1. Call VA Health Department's toll free line at 877-ASK-VDH3.
  2. Follow instructions provided by VDH and the CDC.
  3. If you are severely ill, call 911, share your concerns with the dispatcher and EMS before making contact with personnel who respond.

Prevention

Health officials advise the steps you take to prevent the spread of the common cold and flu will help prevent coronavirus. There is currently no vaccine. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. As a reminder, the CDC always recommends everyday preventative actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Practice social distancing. Avoid crowded areas and groups. This is especially important for people who are at a higher risk of getting sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to  others. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
    • Click here for more information about handwashing.
  • Telework, if possible.

Remember to Care for Yourself

Self-care during this time will help your long-term healing. If you need emotional support, there is help available 24/7:

How to Discontinue Home Isolation

People with COVID-19 who have stayed home (home isolated) can stop home isolation under the following conditions:

If you will not have a test to determine if you are still contagious, you can leave home after these three things have happened:

  • You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever without the use medicine that reduces fevers)
  • AND other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)
  • AND at least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared

If you will be tested to determine if you are still contagious, you can leave home after these three things have happened:

  • You no longer have a fever (without the use medicine that reduces fevers)
  • AND other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)
  • AND you received two negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart. Your doctor will follow CDC guidelines.

For Businesses

The pandemic and social distancing requirements have been hard on our local businesses. Several assistance programs have been implemented by the Commonwealth, City of Winchester and community partners.

  • April 3, 2020 - Winchester Parking Authority can create temporary loading zones in metered spaces for businesses that are providing take-out food services. Business owners can contact the WPA at 540-722-7575 for more information.
  • April 2, 2020 - Click here to read messages from Mayor John David Smith, Jr. and Lord Fairfax Health District Director Colin Greene. 
  • March 27, 2020 - The FDA issued guidance today on a Temporary Policy Regarding Nutrition Labeling of Certain Packaged Food During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. The FDA is issuing this guidance to provide restaurants and food manufacturers with flexibility regarding nutrition labeling so that they can sell certain packaged foods during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, restaurants may have purchased ingredients that they can no longer use to prepare restaurant food and instead wish to sell to their customers. 
  • March 24, 2020 - VA Department of Taxation has offered the following sales tax exemption: Businesses impacted by coronavirus can request an extension of the due date for filing and payment of their February 2020 sales tax return due March 20, 2020, for 30 days. When granted, businesses will be able to file and pay no later than April 20, 2020 with a waiver of any penalties. For more information, see Virginia Tax Bulletin 20-3: Option to Request Extension of Sales Tax Deadlines for those Affected by the COVID-19 Crisis.
  • March 24, 2020 - Winchester EDA approves a Disaster Relief Funding Program for small businesses in the City of Winchester. Details and application.
  • March 17, 2020 - Council approved a resolution (R-2020-13) to direct the City Treasurer and Commissioner of the Revenue to not impose penalties and interest upon certain local taxes (meals, transient occupancy and admission taxes) during the pandemic. This will allow businesses additional time to pay certain taxes without penalty, interest and collection activities. Council also strongly recommended that the City Treasurer not undertake collection actions upon any business that fails to pay any of the taxes subject to this relief. 
  • City Development Services has offered to provide assistance during the pandemic. Contact Shawn Hershberger at 540-722-7577 or Shirley Dodson at 540-667-1815, ext. 1663.
  • Virginia Department of Small Businesses is asking businesses impacted by the pandemic to complete a short survey by March 27 at 5 pm. Information will help the Commonwealth understand and document the impact on businesses to ensure eligibility for possible federal disaster funding.
  • Lord Fairfax Small Business Development Center has Small Business Administration Diaster Relief Loan. Applications

Click below for recommendations for:

  • Businesses -
  • Child cares and Schools (CDC) - Link
  • Churches and Faith Based Organization (CDC) - Link

For Workers

Virginia has several new initiatives to help residents during the pandemic:

  • Waiving the waiting period and enhancing eligibility for unemployment benefits (Contact: Virginia Employment Commission)
  • Loosening restrictions for those receiving unemployment insurance
  • Prohibition on new eviction cases for tenants who are unable to pay rent as a result of the pandemic
  • The Virginia State Corporation Commission is directing the utilities it regulates (electric, natural gas, and water companies) to suspend service disconnections for 60 days.

Click here for more information and a FAQ guide for workers.

Local Travel Advisories

Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau has created an online Travel Advisory web page to help locals, visitors and businesses during the pandemic. The new page provides a central location for up-to-date information about special offerings from local businesses, attraction closings, postponed or canceled major events, travel guidance, and more. 

Shopping Tips

  • Minimize trips to the store - Making a list before leaving home can help make sure you get everything the first time.
  • No need to hoard - There is no disruption in supply chain, buy just enough for your family for a week or two.
  • Shop online - If you can afford to do your shopping online for either delivery or pickup, do it!
  • Restaurant pickup and delivery - Local restaurants may also. be open for pickup or delivery. Call before to check their status.
  • Protect yourself in public - Use sanitizer wipers on the carts and carry hand sanitizer if you can.
  • Social distance - Leave space between you and other shoppers or employees, at least 6 feet.
  • Leave the family at home - Send just one person to the store to do shopping to reduce public crowding.
  • As for help - If you are sick, ask someone else to help complete the shopping. Self-isolate at home!

City of Winchester Response

Updates:

  • March 30, 2020 - Winchester Parks & Recreation closes outdoor basketball courts in Jim Barnett Park. 
  • March 26, 2020 - Winchester Parks & Recreation closes all park playgrounds (Jim Barnett Park and neighborhood parks) and athletic fields to the public.
  • March 26, 2020 - Mayor Smith cancels all non-regulatory City board meetings until further notice. Regulatory boards can meet if necessary and must follow CDC guidelines. 
  • March 24, 2020 - Winchester EDA approves Disaster Relief Funding Program for small businesses in the City of Winchester. 
  • March 24, 2020 - Public Works' large item and compost pick up is canceled until further notice. 
  • March 23, 2020 - Winchester Parking Authority has closed the walk up window at the admin office in the George Washington Autopark. Contact staff via phone or email. Click here for the City staff/department directory.
  • March 20, 2020 - WinTran makes service changes:
    • Beginning Monday, March 23, all Winchester Transit and paratransit routes will operate from 8:50 am-4:55 pm.
    • Beginning Saturday, March 20, there will be no trolley service until further notice.
    • Effective immediately, there is no service to Jim Barnett Park, WMC Wellness Center (except for scheduled Physical Therapy patients), Shenandoah University, and Apple Blossom Mall due to closures.
    • Effective immediately, Winchester Transit will follow the limits set by Governor Northam and will not allow more than 10 passengers on a bus at any given time.
  • March 20, 2020 - City's COVID-19 response update news release. Read
  • March 20, 2020 - The Winchester Parking Authority has suspended enforcement of the on-street and parking lot metered parking spaces until April 3, 2020. Hourly and monthly parking charges in the four downtown parking garages will remain the same. Metered parking is always free on weekends and 6 pm-9 am Monday-Friday. Whether or not to extend the suspension will be evaluated at a later date.
  • March 20, 2020 - Mayor John David Smith, Jr. talks with Barry Lee, 92.5 WINC FM about the City's COVID-19 response and recommendations:

  • March 19, 2020 - The Winchester Circuit Court ORDERS, pursuant to the Court's authority, to close the Clerk's office when conditions would constitute a threat to the health and safety of the Clerk's office personnel and the general public, that the Clerk shall no longer issue marriage licenses or process passport applications to non-residents of Virginia until further notice of the Court.
  • March 17, 2020 - Released a COVID-19 Update Newsletter. Read
  • March 17, 2020 - City Council approved a resolution (R-2020-13) to direct the City Treasurer and Commissioner of the Revenue to not impose penalties and interest upon certain local taxes (meals, transient occupancy and admission taxes) during the pandemic. This will allow businesses additional time to pay certain taxes without penalty, interest and collection activities. Council also strongly recommended that the City Treasurer not undertake collection actions upon any business that fails to pay any of the taxes subject to this relief. 
  • March 17, 2020 - Interim City Manager declares State of Emergency as a proactive measure (no confirmed cases in Winchester at this time). Read News Release
  • March 16, 2020 - City buildings will close to the public beginning March 17, 2020. Please conduct business with the City via online, phone, email, mail or drop box. Several City events have been canceled (KidzFest, Old Town Easter Egg Hunt, Inclusion Volleyball Tournament, Family Movie Night at the Park, Easter Egg Hunt, Eggcessible, Egg Splash).
  • March 13, 2020 - All public meetings through March 27 have been canceled. City Council will hold a special meeting on March 17 at 5 pm to discuss the City's response. Please watch online or on Comcast cable channel 6. The March 24, 2020 City Council meetings have been rescheduled to March 31 at 6 pm.

City's Response

City staff and especially public safety personnel have been monitoring the outbreak and meeting regularly with state and local officials. The VA Department of Health is the lead agency in the Commonwealth’s response. Our Senior Management Team have met to discuss operations and precautions and will continue to discuss the outbreak, proper hygiene, and the City’s response on a regular basis. We have implemented glove wearing for those who handle money or work directly with the public. Staff is sanitizing areas frequently and our cleaning crew is taking extra precautions when they clean our public buildings. First responders have a supply of masks and gloves and Emergency Management is reviewing the City’s Continuity of Operations Plan and the City’s Pandemic Plan and updating both as needed. We are also working closely with the Winchester Public Schools and will provide any assistance needed.

It’s only a matter of time before the virus hits Winchester and we strongly urge everyone to take this serious, but don’t panic, and know your risk. When you want information or updates, rely only on the CDC, Virginia Department of Health, the City of Winchester (or your local government), or the World Health Organization as there is a lot of misinformation out there on social media and in the media. We get our information directly from conference calls with and memos from state officials and will pass it along to our community via our social media pages, website, newsletters and more.

City Council Meetings

All public meetings have been canceled through March 27. The City Council meetings regularly scheduled on March 24, 2020 has been moved to March 31 at 6 pm. The City requests that community members who are interested in watching the meeting, do so remotely using one of the below options:

  • Watch live or any time after the meeting via the City’s online agenda portal: https://winchesterva.civicweb.net/Portal/.
  • Watch live or watch the replay the following Wednesday at noon or on Thursday at 6 pm on Comcast cable channel 6. The extra replay date on the following Wednesday was added due to the pandemic to give the public more opportunities to watch the meetings.

For those who’d like to address Council on any topic or provide comment for a public hearing item on the agenda, please do so using the online public comment form at https://www.opentownhall.com/portals/311/forum_home?phase=open (coming soon). All comments submitted will be provided to Council. To ensure Council receives your comments before the March 31 meeting, please submit by 8 am on Monday, March 30.


Sources: CDC, Virginia Department of Health, Lord Fairfax Health District, World Health District (Since 3/5/2020 and updated daily)