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Schools Close, Shoppers Empty Shelves Amid COVID-19 Fears

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Story by Lourice Angie

      During the past few weeks heightened concerns about the rapid spread of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has caused panic and concern throughout the world and right here in the Warwick community.  The ripple effects have been far-reaching with disruptions in travel, the cancellation of major sporting events, the effect on the stock market and the economy, the closing of schools and the ban on large gatherings of any kind.

Panicked Shoppers Empty Shelves

      As concerns about the pandemic grew, store shelves throughout the area have been emptied of cleaning supplies, paper towel, bottled water, hand sanitizer, canned and frozen goods, and toilet paper.

      At the Warwick Shoprite management has had to use discretion to limit quantities on high demand items in addition to posting handwritten signs on the shelves to reassure their customers that more shipments of the products are on the way.

      ShopRite associates have been working long hours in order to keep up with the customer demand.

      “It’s hyper panic. I’ll put out dozens of pallets of water, approximately 400 pounds (including gallons and individual 24 bottle packs) and it’s gone in less than two hours,” stated one ShopRite associate.

      Despite the anxiety, associates and management have noticed an overall positive tone among the shoppers. There have been fewer complaints and the store has received compliments for how situations are being handled.

      Many customers are using curb-side pick up or delivery services allowing them to stay home and reduce their potential exposure.

Warwick Schools Closed Until Mid-April

      Orange County announced the closure of all schools for at least two weeks but local districts have formulated their own plans. The Warwick Valley Central School District (WVCSD) and Greenwood Lake Union Free School District are both closed through Mon., Apr. 13. The Florida Union Free School District is currently closed through Fri., Mar.27.

      According to a statement by Warwick School Superintendent Dr. David Leach, “The Warwick Valley Central School District has elected to extend this mandated recess period for an additional week. This extra week, along with our already scheduled Spring recess, is intended to provide a sufficient amount of time to reduce the risk that this virus poses to our school community and the community at large…We appreciate the understanding many people have expressed. During this time, most faculty and staff will be working remotely. If you wish to contact us, an email will provide for the quickest response.”

      For the latest information on school-related responses to the COVID-19 situation, visit the district websites at www.warwickvalleyschools.com; www.gwlufsd.org; or www.floridaufsd.org.

Continuing Meal Service

      Effective Tues., Mar. 17 the Warwick School District will distribute Grab-n-Go breakfast and lunch meals at Park Avenue Elementary School between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on weekdays. Meals will be delivered upon request. Additionally, Backpack Snack Attack, a community outreach program, will provide meals on weekends.

Warwick Town Board Addresses Coronavirus Outbreak

      Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton reported that while there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 in Warwick, the Town Board will continue to put relevant information on the Town website and Facebook page. The Town has already been briefed by both Orange County Emergency Services and the NYS Department of Health as to their preparation in the event anything changes.

      At the recommendation of the County, the Town has asked senior groups not to meet at this time due to their higher risk of illness. Sweeton also reported that the Town bus transportation system is being cleaned everyday so residents who need to use the service can feel comfortable doing so. Town Hall is equipped with hand sanitizers for visitors.

      Visit the Town of Warwick’s Facebook page or website at www.townorwarwick.org for additional COVID-19 information and updates.

SACH Restricts Visitation

      St. Anthony Community Hospital (SACH) released a statement restricting visitors. Effective Mon., Mar. 16, patients at the hospital will not be allowed visitors. One designated support person will be allowed for pediatric and Labor and Delivery patients. According to the statement, “exceptions may be made for extenuating circumstances, including those receiving end-of-life care.”

Orange County State of Emergency

      County Executive Steve Neuhaus announced that as of Sun., Mar. 15, Orange County had seven positive COVID-19 cases.

      In addition to the mandated school closings through Mar. 27, Neuhaus initiated orders that included the restriction of visitors to all nursing homes and long-term care centers to families dealing with end-of-life. Additionally, all meetings and activities for people of 60 years of age will be restricted, canceled or postponed.

      Neuhaus requests that the public follow all guidance from the Orange County Health Department and for everyone to remain calm and to stay tuned for important information.

Local Businesses Affected

      Local businesses are feeling the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak. As growing concerns and worries of contamination spread, many restaurants, bars and businesses are seeing a steady decline in customers.

      Several restaurants have reached out via social media to inform patrons of measures they take each day with regards to cleaning and sanitizing their establishments in addition to new precautions aimed to reduce the possibility of incidental contamination. Many restaurants are offering curbside pick-up of to-go orders or have begun local delivery services.

What is COVID-19?

      According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused be a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans.

      The following symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure: fever, cough, and shortness of breath.  As per the CDC, early information out of China, where COVID-19 first started, shows that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes: older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease.

      Orange County Health Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman advises that the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the flu, and other droplet-spread viruses, continues to be to practice basic, common-sense personal hygiene.

      Due to the high volume of calls, residents are encouraged to visit the Orange County Health Department’s webpage at www.orangecountygov.com/health. For general questions, residents may also contact the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) 2019 Novel Coronavirus hotline at 1-888-364-3065 to speak with a NYSDOH expert who will answer questions 24 hours a day. Additional  information and updates can also be found on the CDC website at www.cdc.gov.

      Reporter Katie Bisaro also contributed to this article.

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