A new normal

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Empty toilet paper shelves were a common sight at the Roanoke Walmart as county residents prepared for the potential coronavirus impact

With what is now being called a pandemic, businesses, government offices, healthcare facilities and schools are taking precautionary measures to protect adults and children from the coronavirus. Even though there have been no cases reported in the immediate area, strict precautions are being taken. Cases have been reported as close as Lee County, Ala., and Troup County, Ga.

Schools

Schools in Randolph County and City of Roanoke dismissed on Monday and will be out for three weeks. The original plan was to close the schools on Wednesday, but many parents chose not to send their children to school on Monday. Those students were given their work for the next couple of weeks, and any absence will be excused. Next week was planned spring break for all schools. Schools should be back in session the first week in April. Any kindergarten registration planned between now and April 6 has been canceled.

Colleges and universities in the area have shut down their campuses. Southern Union campuses are empty, and students are participating in long-distance learning by computer at least through April 3. Faculty and staff will continue normal operations, although departments will utilize social distancing as appropriate. Athletic events are canceled and the residence hall is closed.

Randolph County Superintendent John Jacobs said students were sent home with their Chromebooks (tablets) and/or packets of work. He said if students are unable to get internet at home, if they park at the school, the Chromebooks will connect to the school's internet. All of their lessons will be for review, no new material. The teachers have been instructed to prepare another couple of weeks' worth of at-home lessons, just in case they can't go back on April 6. He said, "I don't know what's going to happen."

Roanoke City Schools will likewise provide instruction while closed. Students were sent home with packets and/or Chrombooks. Instruction is through Google Classroom or Canvas. Roanoke Superintendent Chuck Marcum said, "School leaders in our system, and across Alabama and our nation, are responsible for making difficult decisions based on this continuously evolving situation."

Student lunches

Ava United Methodist Church of Wedowee sponsors the Brown Bag Buddies program that serves schools in Wedowee and Woodland. Approximately 90 students receive a bag each Friday.

Randolph-Roanoke Career Technology Center instructor Nancy Messer said bags were delivered to the schools on Monday with the help of some churches. Several local churches in the area help each month with donations of time and money. The churches that help sponsor the program are Liberty Grove, Bethel East, Jordan Chapel, First Baptist Church of Wedowee and Ava. The program also receives monetary donations from local people, as well as people who live far away but still have ties to this community and want to continue to help.

Messer said there will be boxes available periodically to help families in need. The group will deliver and pick up boxes to help the families who are already signed up in the Brown Bag Buddy program. Normally in the bags there are two breakfast items, two lunch items, two dinner items and several snacks. This time they added many more snacks and lunch items. Messer said, "We will be getting in touch with the families periodically to see how they are doing with food."

Students in Roanoke City Schools may pick up a breakfast and/or lunch at Handley Middle School or Handley High School this week and the week of March 30-April 3; however, not the week of March 23-27, when spring break was already scheduled. The student(s) must be present to receive the meal(s).

Recreation

Since the schools closed, Wedowee Parks and Recreation likewise canceled all youth softball and baseball practices.

The City of Roanoke's recreation center is closed, and there will be no outside activities at the rec center.

Healthcare facilities

Long-term healthcare facilities, Traylor Nursing Home and Roanoke Healthcare in Roanoke, have closed their facilities to all visitors except for those in dire situations, such as certain compassionate care situations, such as end-of-life situations. Families can communicate with residents by phone or by computer.

At Tanner Medical Center in Wedowee, their updated policy is to protect patients and the community. In a release from Tony Montcalm with Tanner Public Relations, "We are implementing a more stringent visitor policy to keep patients, visitors and employees safe." The new policy asks that you refrain from visiting a patient if you: Are 16 or younger, are not an immediate family member or significant other, have traveled outside the United States in the last 14 days, have been in close contact with someone who has or is suspected of having the virus and have symptoms of a fever, cough or shortness of breath. Additionally, there will be no more than one visitor per patient. Tanner's staff will work with families on a case-by-case basis with critically ill or injured loved ones. The hospital is limiting access to all hospital facilities. All visitors and patients will undergo a screening as they enter a facility. All classes and public events have been cancelled and will be rescheduled. Loy Howard, president and CEO, said, "As a community hospital, it's our primary goal to protect the health and safety of our patients, employees and community. These restrictions ensure we will be able to continue that mission."

The two ambulance services in the county are taking precautions. At Southern Ambulance in Wedowee, Gloria Gregg said their precautions are for all of their patients but especially the dialysis patients. "When we carry a patient for dialysis, we carry them into the facility and then we must leave ... no waiting around in the waiting room of the facility. We wear masks not only in the facility but when we are with the patients." She said on emergency calls, Randolph County 911 is doing an excellent screening the calls. "They ask them certain questions, such as have they been out of the country." She went on to say they are keeping all of their ambulances disinfected to the greatest extent. At Emergency Medical Transport in Roanoke, they are basically doing the same thing. Paramedic Chuck Potts said they treat each patient as if they have the flu. He said, "We are especially careful with our high-risk patients such as those on dialysis."

Senior centers

According to Mayor Tim Coe, Wedowee Senior Center is closed until further notice. Homebound meals will continue to be delivered. Those seniors who normally eat at the center may either pick up their meal to-go or have it delivered to their house. Coe said, "Our main concern is the health and welfare of our seniors."

Roanoke Senior Center is closed to the public, but meals are being delivered to homebound seniors. Seniors who come into the center can come to the door and pick up a meal to be carried home.

Jail

Restrictions have been put in place at the Randolph County Jail. Sheriff David Cofield said, "We are not allowing any visitors at this time. If someone is arrested and brought into the jail, they will have to answer a questionnaire. Our goal is keep the inmates safe and most of all our employees."

Shopping and dining

WM Grocery asked customers to give the elderly and immune-compromised customers the first two hours of business, from 7 to 9 a.m., to come in and shop. The stores will be less crowded and freshly sanitized.

Dollar General is encouraging the first hour of operations be dedicated to senior shoppers. All stores will close one hour early for employees to clean and restock shelves.

Fort McClellan Credit Union and First Bank of Alabama have closed their lobbies, but the drive-in windows are open.

The bi-annual Wedowee Hospital Auxiliary $ Jewelry Sale, scheduled for this week, has been canceled.

Alabama Power Company told its customers they will work with them to offer resources during this uncertain time. If you are impacted and have difficulty paying your bill, contact Customer Service at alabamapower.com or 1-800-245-2244 to discuss other options.

At Jack's, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and McDonald's, service is now take out or drive-thru only. The dining areas are closed.

Churches

So far, we have not been made aware of any Sunday church services being canceled; however, some other church-related activities have been. Seniors and other at-risk members were asked to stay home, and several churches give on-line options for viewing the service.

Courts

According to Circuit Clerk Chris May, pursuant to an Alabama Supreme Court order, all circuit and district court proceedings have been suspended until April 16. All court docket dates scheduled between now and April 16 will be rescheduled by the court, and parties will receive notice of their new court date. The Randolph County Circuit Clerk's Office will operate on a regular schedule. If you have any questions, you may contact the clerk's office at (256) 357-4551.

All court-ordered community service is suspended for now. Please do not report to the courthouse to perform community service. You will be notified once court-ordered community service resumes.

Preliminary hearings that were scheduled for March 31 have been continued to April 23 at 1 p.m. with the exception of those cases involving defendants who are incarcerated. Preliminary hearings involving defendants who are incarcerated shall proceed as scheduled.

Government

Roanoke City Hall and other departments are open at this time. They respectfully ask that citizens not visit city facilities if they are sick. The Annie L. Awbrey Public Library is closed for now. The situation will be re-evaluated on April 6, and a new notice posted. For more information about Roanoke closures, call City Hall at (334) 863-2819.

At this time, the Randolph County Commission workshop (Thursday) and regular meeting (Monday) and the Roanoke City Council meeting (Monday) are scheduled to take place as usual.

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