Northam Shuts Down Schools. What’s Next?

By DJ Rippert

Early Spring Break. Last Thursday Virginia Governor Northam somewhat suddenly decided to shut down all K-12 schools starting the next day. The shutdown is for “at least two weeks.” The question of how to manage continuing free and reduced price meals during the shutdown has been left up to the individual school districts. Yesterday a man in Virginia’s peninsula health district died of COVID-19. Today, Northam banned all gatherings of more than 100 people. As of this writing (1:30 p.m. .Sunday, March 15) there have been 45 cases of Coronavirus recorded in Virginia with one death.

After a “wait and see” start Northam now has Virginia taking actions in parallel with more aggressive U.S. states.  However, every state is taking action. West Virginia shut down its schools “indefinitely” despite the Mountain State being the only state in America to have no confirmed cases of Coronavirus. Future actions by the Virginia state government are hard to predict. Senior officials in the Trump Administration are urging a 14-day national shutdown which would obviously apply to Virginia. A good look at how the U.S. Coronavirus outbreak compares to other countries can be seen here. If the federal government does not declare a national shutdown, Virginia could still take any number of actions depending on the severity of the situation. Let’s look at what’s happening elsewhere.

America: New York. Coronavirus cases are surging in New York with the New York Times reporting “over 700” as of Sunday morning. Two New York state lawmakers are among the 700+.  New Rochelle, a near suburb of NYC in Westchester County, is a COVID-19 hotspot. It has been declared a containment zone. Schools, houses of worship and other places used for large gatherings have been closed. The National Guard has been called out to help with everything from cleanup of public areas and delivery of food. While unspoken, the presence of the National Guard no doubt will be a deterrent to those who might consider looting and other crimes in the nearly abandoned streets of New Rochelle. Despite the issues in Westchester County (which borders NYC), Mayor Bill de Blasio has so far elected to keep America’s largest school system open.De Blasio’s position is controversial in New York City with some politicians calling for a very broad-based shutdown — well beyond just closing the schools.

Europe: Italy. The country is close to 18,000 cases and 1,300 deaths. The government has effectively shut down the country. Many city streets are reported to be deserted. Schools and churches are closed. Weddings and funerals are postponed. All stores (including restaurants) except grocery stores and pharmacies are closed. Despite being confined to their homes, Italians have been seen singing in unison from their balconies in order to help maintain morale. You’ve gotta admire the Italian spirit.

The government and unions have agreed on security procedures which will allow some Italians to continue working. First-hand accounts from Italy paint a harrowing picture. One comes from none other than conservative icon Newt Gingrich. Gingrich lives in Rome with his wife, who is Trump’s Ambassador to The Vatican. You can read his article here. Based on his experience in Italy Gingrich has some advice for America. “We should be planning for a worst-case pandemic and using the kind of intensity of implementation which served us so well in World War II. Getting enough ventilators, masks, intensive care units, treatment medications and aggressive community-wide testing are the minimum steps to saving lives and stopping the pandemic.”

Back in the Old Dominion. After a slow start Governor Northam is now tightening the restrictions in Virginia as the virus spreads. So far, the virus seems to generally track the population centers in Northern Virginia, Central Virginia and Hampton Roads. There do not seem to be localized “hot spots” similar to New Rochelle, N.Y. There is probably little more that Northam can do at this point beyond continued efforts to ensure that masks, ventilators, medical personnel, etc are ready for when (probably not if) the situation in Virginia deteriorates further. One hopes that if a Virginia “hotspot” develops, our state and local authorities will move quickly to cordon it off.  This would probably mean a reaction similar to that in New Rochelle.

Update #1: In the few hours since this article was published there have been developments in James City County that might be a cause for concern.  There apparently have been 8 or 10 cases of Coronavirus in that county (sources differ).  In addition, there is evidence of community spread.  Northam has urged (but not ordered) people on the Peninsula to avoid going to restaurants and bars.  Read more here.

Update #2: The governors of Illinois and Ohio have shut down restaurants and bars state-wide.  The mayor of Nashville has asked the city’s health department to shut down all bars in Davidson County and significant curtail in-restaurant meals.  If Northam makes another move it will probably be along these lines.

Update #3: New York City schools will be closed next week.

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49 responses to “Northam Shuts Down Schools. What’s Next?

  1. Fairfax county has closed its schools through its previously scheduled spring break, until April 10. See a quote from email to parents below.

    Can Governor Northam compel private universities to close such as Liberty in Lynchburg under his state of emergency? He should if he has the power to do so.

    “Dear FCPS Parents, Staff and Community,

    In support of the governor’s announcement today, and in response to the ongoing concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in our region, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) will close schools through April 10, 2020.

    Schools will be closed for students for four weeks, including spring break. For staff who work less than 12 months, schools will be closed for at least two weeks. We will reassess schools reopening for those staff members after two weeks and we will make that decision no later than Friday, March 27. The operating status of SACC has not been determined at this time.”

    • My understanding is that Northam can compel private schools to shutdown. I’m not really sure but all reports I’ve read say that Northam shut down all K-12 schools. I don’t see any reports claiming that he only shut down public schools. So, I’m making an informed guess that he can instruct private colleges during this state of emergency.

  2. Slowing the spread of the virus is Task One.

    But any plan must recognize the significant probability that the virus will spread anyway and swamp hospitals.

    Task Two is ensuring that hospitals have the surge capacity in beds, staff, ventilators and other equipment to accommodate the surge. If we haven’t taken appropriate action, our hospitals will look like Italy’s. I can’t believe that there have been no public pronouncements on those plans, and I can’t believe the media hasn’t been asking what the preparations are. It’s not as if we don’t have abundant examples of the course of the disease in other countries.

    • I agree. The Italians and perhaps the Spanish have struggled to contain the virus. The South Koreans and (if you believe them) the Chinese have contained the virus. Or, at least, they are no longer experiencing exponential growth. As I understand it the Chinese used a hard core lockdown and the Koreans used mass testing. We don’t have enough test kits. It seems like a lockdown is our only real way to contain this. Italy is more than 6X more densely populated than the US. Maybe that will help.

    • Good, short article about what the South Koreans have been doing. Testing is one of the keys.

      • Is there a point at which we start asking the question as to whether the public health benefit (with real science being disclosed to the public) warrants the unprecedented curtailment of our right to free assembly and freedom of religion we are asked to consent to. The “exponential growth” argument is supposed to suppress any questioning of government policies in this regard. We are edging perilously close to a police state situation here.

        • My libertarian philosophy is that people should be able to do almost anything they want unless it hurts other people. However, getting infected and then infecting others meets my definition of “hurting other people” under certain circumstances. In those cases it is right for government to act. Last week the liberal geniuses who run Newark threatened to crack down on anyone posting misinformation about Newark and Coronavirus on social media. They threatened “criminal prosecution”. This is beyond the pale because commentary doesn’t cause infection or spread disease. It is also a clear violation of freedom of speech. Restricting large gatherings seems like a different story – especially if done under a legally declared state of emergency and for as short a period as possible.

          • In general, I’m in somewhat agreement but would ask this question:

            ” In the age of the internet, is there such a thing as shouting “fire” in a theater with regard to it affecting the population in a similar way that shouting “fire” in a theater affect the theater audience?

            Right now, we do have a big problem with folks spouting all kinds of conspiracy theories – and it does affect others.

            Don’t believe it?

            do a google search on PizzaGate.

            people are nuts these days… the most outrageous lies spread
            like wildfire on social media and than some wacko actually does something.

            I do not like the idea of inhibiting free speech at all.. but when someone does this and it results in actual harm to others – does it then meet your definition?

      • Excellent question, sbostian!

      • ” A biotech company in the country developed a test within three weeks, according to CNN.”

  3. My cousin went to Israel and was among the last tourists allowed in before their 14-day quarantine was enacted. This morning, she emailed that “Israel just closed. We don’t know the total extent but all the cultural institutions are closed all the religious institutions are closed. The malls are closed and the restaurants are closed.” Schools had been previously closed until mid-April. The WaPo this morning said Israel has 200 cases and no deaths yet. Gatherings of more than 10 are banned.

    • Israel has about the same population as Virginia. If we had 200 cases (instead of 45) I’d hope we would be taking more serious steps too. But do we wait to get there or lock it down now?

      • To a certain extent, this contagion is going to run it’s course no matter what we do.

        We can do a little of slowing it down and diverting it but in the end, it’s going to happen and it is going to kill – like all contagions have done.

        Makes me wonder – if we did all we can and we did it perfectly – how many less infected and deaths would there be? 5%, 10%, 50% ?

        • “Makes me wonder – if we did all we can and we did it perfectly – how many less infected and deaths would there be? 5%, 10%, 50% ?”

          Likely, less than .076% deaths.

        • South Korea seems to be competently handling this outbreak. They are seeing about 100 confirmed cases per day and recoveries exceed confirmed cases. At 100 confirmed cases per day it would take 500,000 days to infect all of South Korea. One presumes that a vaccine will be developed long before 500,000 days.

          Whatever South Korea is doing seems to be working.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            I gathered somehow from somewhere that there is an ebb and flow to these things, kinda like June Bugs except heat, light, and humidity tamps the corona down good, and the more they infect the less nasty they get because killing somebody kills them too, so they get less nasty for their own good. Our old friend Michael Milken also has some counter attack anti-body ideas for injection too, but the vaccines that work well safely are still a goods ways off, I’ve read. Hope I don’t get arrested for speaking up about this on BR without a liberal’s permission slip.

    • I’d lock Virginia down now, with especial focus on the most vulnerable by far, the elderly. Up front pain done right, saves big money and big risk, big loss later. Lock it up, don’t let it unravel, so we get back into business as quick as reasonably possible.

      • This comment is not aimed at you personally, just a plea that discussions about what action to take quote real scientific findings (not the “exponential growth mantra which admits no probing questions or disagreement) and at least a nod to constitutional rights. We should remember this quote from William Pitt the Younger:

        “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”

        Also, remember the basic rule of hysteria and panics: when fear sets in, facts are only peripheral.

  4. I still think it is a bad idea and especially so if schools are closed for the rest of the year as Mike Dewine of Ohio said this morning was a real possibility.

    The reason why I feel this way is because people and their kids are not going to self-quarantine for more than a few days and this is why we are seeing draconian rules put in place in other countries and if the kids and their parents do not stay home, we may see the same thing.

    Again – the shortage of test kits is killing us on this.

    If kids could be tested and kept home from school – then the remaining kids and adults could carry on – with appropriate testing when indicated and people removed and isolated when detected.

    If you do not believe me – take a trip to the big box stores and malls and other places that people congregate and you’ll see that’s where kids and parents are going to right now.

    The people we need to isolate are the elderly and the immunocompromised – they are the ones who are at risk of death. Others will get sick and most will recover.

    Trying to lock down an entire society only is effective if you actually do that.

  5. Va Feb 28 – 1 case; Mar 6 9 tests pending; Mar 7=2 cases; Mar 9=3,4, & 5; Mar 10=8; Mar 13=30; Mar 14=45. I’m afraid it’s progressing faster than test results are coming back.

    Cousin just sent a pic of the Western Wall on the women’s side where the govt just put up yellow tape to mark out spaces for 10 women to pray in each.

    The stores with email order/drive through pick up like Food Lion, Kroger, Walmart, are going to pick up a lot of business as this goes on. Glad our last pharmacy in town has a drive up window to pick up prescriptions.

    • Good reporting, Carol. I suspect a big jump soon, most likely around the hot spot, but new hots may will come soon, particularly if protocols don’t grab hold soon. Much infection is likely unknown, if only because we don’t have test kits. Goodness knows, Philip Shucet’s case illustrates that point in technicolor.

    • CJB, how does the Food Lion in Mathews look? Is it picked over like a buzzard-ravaged carcass, or pretty well stocked still?

  6. I was surprised that the Governor had the power to order schools to shut down. But, in reviewing the statutes related to declarations of state of emergency, the Governor’s powers are very broad. He “may direct and compel evacuation of all or part of the populace from any…threatened area if deemed necessary for preservation of life….”

    Gatherings of 100 or more? I am not so sure of the authority there.

    I am surprised that no one here has commented on Jerry Falwell declaring that he was not canceling classes at Liberty University because he thought the threat was being hyped in the news media and was “the next attempt to get Trump.”
    Guess that ban on gatherings of more than 100 people will put a stop to those classes.

    • yep – the Trumpsters are saying that this is a leftist hoax… a second attempt to impeach Trump – and more – and worse !

      The host of “Trish Regan Primetime” told viewers this week that concerns about the coronavirus were “yet another attempt to impeach the president.”

      Ms. Regan’s 8 p.m. program, “Trish Regan Primetime,” is “on hiatus until further notice,” Fox Business said in a statement. The network declined to say if Ms. Regan would continue to appear on its other programs, saying that its coverage plans for the coronavirus crisis remained in flux.

      Fox Business attributed the move to “the demands of the evolving pandemic crisis coverage,” saying it was shifting resources toward daytime coverage of the pandemic and global markets. Both “Trish Regan Primetime” and its follow-up at 9, “Kennedy,” will be replaced by general-interest programs.

    • I guess the reporting out of Italy is some kind of anti-Trump “Wag the Dog” fake. Falwell is a menace.

      • Well.. the interesting thing is that South Korea did a competent response early on and apparently Italy did not then had to do like China and revert to Draconian govt thuggery…

        Makes one wonder just how competent Italy is in the contagious virus game.

        At this point, there are over 200 countries in the world – and we actually know about a dozen… at this point.

    • Dick, we saw that Falwell pronouncement in the Lynchburg paper a while ago and it is appalling. But I’m having enough difficulty wrestling with, e.g., members of our church’s vestry who simply insist that since the Episc. Ch. shut down services for two weeks, that means it’s all going to blow over in those two weeks and we should plan the resumption of everything in late March; the rest is MSM “hype” not to be believed. The broader lesson here is, and this demonstrates, there is no agreed-upon arbiter of the truth left any longer. Even if people disagree what to do about the facts, they should have the same facts before them; instead we have
      news a la Facebook.

      • Local Episcopal Church is livestreaming on FB, and they pretty much DO accept the premise that it’s two weeks and reassess and perhaps longer, especially now that the CDC is saying two months. And they are also reconfiguring their food pantry to deal with the reality of the virus and the Church’s desired rules.

        And the truth ain’t what it used to be before the internet!

      • Acbar:

        This is what I think you have to review … the graph entitled “Confirmed cases for selected countries over time”

        Several observations:

        At Days 2,4,6,8,10 and 13 (after the 100th case was reported) the US is in better shape than France, Iran, Italy, South Korea and Spain. This is particularly striking given we have a vastly larger population than any of those other countries.

        The South Koreans flattened their curve on Day 16 and it has remained flat for the last 8 days.

        While there is too little data to be sure the French curve may be flattening.

        The Italian curve is getting close to exponential. Things appear to be getting worse day by day.

        Iran and Spain have apparently not been able to contain the virus although their growth curves are not closing on exponential.

        So, where are we? If we follow the South Korean curve I assume we will start reopening things within two weeks. If we follow the Italian curve we’re screwed.

  7. Larry–pandemic is global. Period. If this list doesn’t make the point, nothing will. I may have missed one in counting online, but I got 127 countries (WHO says 143 countries/territories/areas); 9 added in the last 24 hours.
    WHO situation report today:
    Globally 153,517 confirmed cases (10,982new) 5735deaths (343 new)

    From CDC: Locations with Confirmed COVID-19 Cases, by WHO Region
    Locations with Confirmed COVID-19 Cases, by WHO Region
    Burkina Faso
    Democratic Republic of Congo
    Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire)
    South Africa

    Costa Rica
    Dominican Republic
    French Guiana
    Trinidad and Tobago
    United States

    Eastern Mediterranean
    Saudi Arabia
    United Arab Emirates

    Bosnia and Herzegovina
    Holy See (Vatican City)
    North Macedonia
    San Marino
    United Kingdom

    South-East Asia
    Sri Lanka

    Western Pacific
    Brunei Darussalam
    Hong Kong
    New Zealand
    Republic of Korea

  8. You are correct of course. We just don’t hear much beyond about a dozen or so although, yes, CNN and others regularly post a world map with colors that I stare at and then claim (inanely) only a dozen are involved.

  9. Countries affected by the coronavirus
    Country Confirmed cases Deaths
    China 80,995 3,203
    Italy 24,747 1,809
    Iran 13,938 724
    South Korea 8,162 72
    Spain 7,753 291
    Germany 5,813 11
    France 5,420 127
    US 3,557 68
    Switzerland 2,217 14
    UK 1,375 35
    Netherlands 1,135 20
    Norway 1,126 3
    Sweden 1,024 2
    Belgium 886 4
    Denmark 873 2
    Japan 814 24
    Austria 800 1
    Malaysia 428 0
    Qatar 337 0
    Greece 331 4
    Australia 250 3
    Canada 250 1
    Portugal 245 0
    Finland 244 0
    Czech Republic 231 0
    Singapore 212 0
    Bahrain 210 0
    Israel 200 0
    Slovenia 181 1
    Iceland 156 0
    Brazil 151 0
    Philippines 140 11
    Estonia 135 0
    Romania 131 0
    Ireland 129 2
    Indonesia 117 5
    Thailand 114 1
    Poland 111 3
    Iraq 110 10
    Lebanon 110 3
    Egypt 109 2
    Kuwait 104 0
    Saudi Arabia 103 0
    India 102 2
    United Arab Emirates 85 0
    San Marino 80 5
    Chile 61 0
    Russia 59 0
    Taiwan 59 1
    Slovakia 54 0
    Pakistan 53 0
    Vietnam 53 0
    Luxembourg 51 1
    South Africa 51 0
    Brunei 50 0
    Croatia 49 0
    Algeria 48 4
    Serbia 46 0
    Bulgaria 41 2
    Mexico 41 0
    Albania 38 1
    Peru 38 0
    Panama 36 1
    Argentina 34 2
    Hungary 32 1
    Georgia 30 0
    Ecuador 28 2
    Morocco 28 1
    Belarus 27 0
    Costa Rica 26 0
    Cyprus 26 0
    Latvia 26 0
    Colombia 22 0
    Oman 19 0
    Armenia 18 0
    Bosnia and Herzegovina 18 0
    Malta 18 0
    Tunisia 18 0
    Azerbaijan 15 1
    North Macedonia 14 0
    Moldova 12 0
    Afghanistan 11 0
    Dominican Republic 11 0
    Bolivia 10 0
    Maldives 10 0
    Senegal 10 0
    Sri Lanka 10 0
    Martinique 9 0
    Jamaica 8 0
    Lithuania 8 0
    Cambodia 7 0
    Kazakhstan 6 0
    New Zealand 6 0
    Paraguay 6 0
    Reunion 6 0
    Turkey 6 0
    Cuba 4 0
    Liechtenstein 4 0
    Uruguay 4 0
    Bangladesh 3 0
    Ghana 3 0
    Ukraine 3 1
    Aruba 2 0
    Burkina Faso 2 0
    Cameroon 2 0
    Congo 2 0
    Honduras 2 0
    Jersey 2 0
    Monaco 2 0
    Namibia 2 0
    Nigeria 2 0
    Seychelles 2 0
    Trinidad and Tobago 2 0
    Venezuela 2 0
    Andorra 1 0
    Antigua and Barbuda 1 0
    Bhutan 1 0
    Cayman Islands 1 0
    Curacao 1 0
    Equatorial Guinea 1 0
    Eswatini 1 0
    Ethiopia 1 0
    Gabon 1 0
    Guadeloupe 1 0
    Guatemala 1 0
    Guernsey 1 0
    Guinea 1 0
    Guyana 1 1
    Ivory Coast 1 0
    Jordan 1 0
    Kenya 1 0
    Mauritania 1 0
    Mongolia 1 0
    Nepal 1 0
    Rwanda 1 0
    St Lucia 1 0
    St Vincent and the Grenadines 1 0
    Sudan 1 1
    Suriname 1 0
    Togo 1 0
    Vatican City 1 0
    Diamond Princess 696 0

    • Interesting to look at the outliers. India, with the world’s second largest population, has few cases. Indonesia, with the world’s fourth largest population, has relatively few cases. Russia? Meanwhile, mid-population countries like Italy and Spain are getting clobbered.

      The problem with absolute numbers is that the disease is spreading and some countries are in early stages. It would seem to me that looking at the number of cases after the first 100 are detected would be more statistically relevant. Then you have to adjust for the country’s population.

  10. DJR: watch this space! Developing scandal, from the Guardian (UK) and now picked up by the WaPo: Trump tried to buy a German pharmaceutical company said to be developing a COVID19 vaccine, in order to take its research to the US exclusively to benefit US citizens. CEO, who met with Trump, said to be close to a deal; then founder led board meeting to fire the CEO; now the company (Curevac) is walking back its consent to the “exclusive” part of the deal. Not pretty if all proves true.

    • Oh no… does that mean it’s not Northams fault?

      geeze, if this is true……….. good lord.. we’re running the US like it was some sort of for-profit corporation trying to outdo it’s competition!

      We’re just one of Trump’s “properties” like his hotels and casinos!

      makes one also wonder about the claim that our drugs in this country are so expensive because we do R&D for the world!

      On a prior pandemic, the H1N1 Swine Flu – here’s what we did:

      ” On April 15, 2009, the first infection was identified in California, according to the CDC, and less than two weeks later, on April 26, 2009, the Obama administration declared a public health emergency. The day before, on April 25, the World Health Organization had declared a public health emergency.

      Dr. Richard Besser, then-acting director of the CDC, confirmed to the press on the day of the U.S. declaration that there were 20 cases of H1N1 in the U.S., and that “all of the individuals in this country who have been identified as cases have recovered.”

      The same day — April 26 — the CDC began releasing antiviral drugs to treat the H1N1 flu, and two days later, the FDA approved a new CDC test for the disease, according to a CDC timeline on the pandemic.”

      hard to know what the DOO DA is going on now………..but it does have a certain fetid odor.

      • H1N1 statistics in the US …

        61M Americans infected
        265,000 Americans hospitalized
        12,469 Americans dead

        We’ll see how the Coronavirus plays out in the US. If the numbers end up lower than H1N1 I’m sure all the progressives will become ready mix epidemiologists declaring that H1N1 was always more infectious, more deadly, etc.

        Larry, if you’re going to troll my articles then troll effectively – with numbers and predictions.

        • No trolling! We had a quick and effective response to H1N1 and jt Still killed a bunch. What happens when you’re late?

        • Most notable to me re: H1N1 is that it took nearly TWO YEARS to run its course. Until one either contracts COVID-19 or receives a vaccine, we have no antibodies. May or may not get “sick” but no immunity.

    • Sounds like fake news to me. That’s not how you would do something like that. If you wanted to monopolize the research or output of the company you wouldn’t admit that going in. You’d claim that you wanted to buy the company so you could infuse it with more capital in order to hire more scientists and accelerate any progress toward a vaccine. One you own the company you replace the board (standard operating procedure) and start dictating to the CEO.

      Going into the acquisition claiming you want exclusive use was bound to fail, if not by board rejection then by refusal by the German government. That approach had no chance of working.

      Sounds like Washington ComPost fake news.

  11. Acbar Don’t know for sure. I use the Food Lion to Go. I ordered day before yesterday and got everything I wanted. If supplies of something are running low, “usually” the system lets you know and offers substitutes. Or you can let them substitute for you. Someone on local FB today said she got everything she wanted in the store, but it was crowded.

    • Thanks — we’re just weighing the pros and cons of coming down.

      • Shopping situation has changed for the worse here. Walmart in Gloucester is down to bare shelves in paper goods, cold meds and randomly throughout the store. As trucks come in, the stuff is being sold before the truck is completely unloaded.

        Called Food Lion and they’re pretty stripped too. They have a delivery coming in tonight, but no idea what’s going to be on it.
        The County issued a state of emergency and closed all their buildings to the public through March 29th, and Gloucester did the same over the weekend.

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