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Over the the last week, many downtown shops closed or changed their operations to help slow the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Matt Minde)

Coronavirus fears reach village

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On the morning of Monday, March 16, the streets of downtown Yellow Springs were unusually quiet.

The typical spots to grab coffee and breakfast were shuttered. Local restaurateurs scrambled to figure out how to roll out delivery or carry out-only options. Mills Lawn teachers packed up what they needed from their classrooms. Tom’s Market employees recovered after a record-breaking sales weekend.

Villagers are stocking up and staying home as the impact of the global COVID-19 outbreak starts to be felt here, even without a confirmed local case of the disease.

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Over the previous seven days, the threat of the novel coronavirus prompted swift and drastic actions from the state government, affecting daily life in the village. Local institutions responded to government orders, but also acted proactively to limit the ways that villagers come in contact with one another to reduce the spread of the virus.

On Wednesday, March 11, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. Ohio declared a state of emergency on March 9 after its first confirmed case, followed by the U.S. (March 13) and Greene County (March 17).

Starting Wednesday, March 11, and continuing through early this week, nearly every community event was canceled and public space closed.

Local K–12 schools, the Wellness Center, the Little Art Theatre, all local bars and restaurant dining rooms were closed. Antioch College’s campus, the Yellow Springs Library and a slew of retail shops also closed (grocery stores, pharmacies and banks remain open). Learning has moved online for local educational institutions. The primary election set to take place on Tuesday, March 17, was postponed hours before voting was to begin.

The changes to the village have been fast and far-reaching. Local stores are reporting that they are sold out of face masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray and wipes and some paper products. Many local service workers find themselves suddenly out of work. Several important nonprofit fundraisers had to be canceled. The economic impact of the closures, especially in a tourist town, will be significant, local leaders fear.

Yet almost immediately, villagers started to step up. The Yellow Springs Community Foundation assembled a team to focus on local food security and financial assistance to hurting community members and set up a fund to handle donations. Tom’s Market and the Senior Center are partnering to deliver groceries to hundreds of local senior households. The local school district and the Beloved Community Project will offer meals to go for some, and the local food pantry is looking to expand its reach. The Village will not disconnect utility customers who cannot pay.

This issue, and subsequent issues, of the Yellow Springs News will cover the extensive impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on local life, as well as efforts to help those impacted. The News will share resources, interview experts and report on state and local actions in response to the crisis.

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