On Sept. 1, JMU announced its temporary move to online-only instruction throughout the month of September with the possibility of in-class instruction resuming Oct. 5. Because of the COVID-19 spike at JMU, many small businesses and Harrisonburg residents have had to be more cautious around the community.
Michael Parks, director of communications of the City of Harrisonburg, said it’s “too soon” to see the economic setbacks that come with JMU’s temporary closure. He said a reason for this is because they don’t know how many students decided to stay in Harrisonburg and how many went back to their hometowns.
“There is a serious delay in when the city sees tax revenue numbers compared to when they actually happen,” Parks said. “We probably won’t know the economic impact of this month until mid-November.”
The owner of Magpie Diner in Harrisonburg, Kirsten Moore, said she’s been lucky enough to not have experienced too much of an economic setback at her restaurant since opening in late July.
“When cases started to spike we did see a slight drop in customers because I think people were nervous to come outside for a little bit, but for the most part we’ve been unaffected,” Moore said. “We have a unique space in the sense that it’s really large, brand new, and bright and airy and clean.”
She also said she and her employees have regular conversations about comfort level and concerns regarding health. She said they all wear masks and are careful with washing hands, but at the end of the day she said they don’t know what they could be exposing themselves to.
“We did have a conversation last week when JMU cases were spiking referring to what we can do if someone were to make a decision to go into lockdown again,” Moore said. “Definitely thinking ahead to what would happen, we got patio heaters, so we can utilize that if need be.”
Since JMU has had a sharp increase of cases when returning to campus, other small businesses such as Magpie Diner had to come up with new and creative precautions to keep everyone safe. According to the New York Times COVID-19 tracker, JMU ranks 9th in the country with highest COVID-19 cases.
“As of Monday, Sept. 14, JMU had a total of 1,316 positive COVID-19 cases — 369 of those are still active and 947 are recovered cases, according to the university's tracker,” said Laura Peters in an article for news leader.
Parks said that hospitalizations so far in Harrisonburg have been something that’s been under control. He said that in terms of hospitalizations and deaths, the city has not heard any changing information from the Virginia Department of Health.
“Almost all of the deaths that we have experienced here in our community have been related to outbreaks in two long term care facilities,” Parks said. “At no point have we been told that the hospital is at its stretching point by any means.”
According to the Virginia Department of Health, there have been 111 hospitalizations and 20 deaths as of Sept. 15.
“We are working closely with regional and national health experts in monitoring the situation, and have put all City protocols related to the prevention of the spread of communicable diseases into action,” The City of Harrisonburg website said.
He said that this semester, the Harrisonburg Police Department hasn’t busted many parties exceeding 50 people, which is the current gathering ordinance law. He said the majority of people are abiding by that law.
“The city is doing all that it can to support VDH and JMU and EMU and every one of our communities,” Parks said. “We’re trying to support all of them as much as we possibly can.”
Contact Isabela Gladston at email@example.com. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.