Monday, April 15, 2024

Localities on the Peninsula are dispelling rumors about the coronavirus

The coronavirus is a respiratory illness that spreads from person to person. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Unsplash)
The coronavirus is a respiratory illness that spreads from person to person. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Unsplash)

The World Health Organization on Wednesday classified the coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic.

So far, 17 Virginians (15 in Virginia and 2 in Texas) have tested “presumptive positive” for the respiratory virus, prompting several colleges to cancel on-campus classes, including the College of William & Mary and Old Dominion University and other universities opted to play their athletic games without fans.

Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday declared a state of emergency — encouraging cities to avoid holding large events. The governor also suspended all out of state travel for state employees.

As the coronavirus spreads across the state, several localities are prepared or already addressing rumors of local cases.

James City County

James City County stepped up Wednesday to dispel local rumors with a post on its Twitter. 

“In a rapidly evolving situation such as COVID-19, it’s important that the facts are being spread around,” Renee Dallman, the county’s spokeswoman, said. “We don’t want people to panic and we want them to arm themselves with the facts.”

Dallman said it can be difficult to stop the spread of rumors on social media because that information is shared at such a rapid speed. However, the county is monitoring social media accounts and information reported by residents to ensure any rumors are stopped quickly.

The county has created a web page where residents can find resources for accurate information, such as the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“I…ask the public to help because we need the community in situations like this,” Dallman said. “If they are hearing rumors, we encourage folks to go to those correct sources of accurate information because it’s going to take all of us to get through this.”

York County

In York County spokeswoman Gail Whittaker said there haven’t been any reports to her department recently about rumors. She clarified though that she only had information on her particular department but other parts of the county’s operations could have received calls about concerns.

Whittaker said when the county does receive calls or messages about coronavirus concerns, residents are directed to reach out to the VDH or CDC for information. 

“We want everyone to stay healthy and safe and the best way to do that is ensure they are getting the right information to lessen their risk of getting this virus,” she said.


Lee Ann Hartmann, spokeswoman for Williamsburg, said the city finds out about rumors through phone calls, people stopping by, social media and colleagues from other jurisdictions.

“To my knowledge, we have not received anything,” she said.

If the city were to hear about rumors, Hartmann said she would speak with the city manager, probably send out an e-notify –– an email message alert to city subscribers–– and put something on the city’s website.

Hartmann said she would talk with other localities and community partners like Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William & Mary to provide a coordinated response.

Right now, Hartmann is directing people to sources like the VDH’s website.

The city also has a website addressing the coronavirus. Hartmann said event cancellations will be posted on the front page of the city’s main website under the news tab.

“We have no cancellations at this time but it’s an ever changing situation,” she said.

Hampton and Newport News

Newport News added this infographic on Thursday to its daily newsletter. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the city of Newport News)
Newport News added this infographic on Thursday to its daily newsletter. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the city of Newport News)

In a text message, Kim Lee, spokeswoman for the city, said the city is working closely with the VDH to disseminate accurate information about the coronavirus to the public using the city website, the 311 call center, social media and daily newsletter.

“We are relying on and sharing the guidance developed by VDH and the CDC in an effort to ensure consistent messaging to the public about the current situation and what citizens should do and to minimize confusion,” she wrote.

Fred Gaskins, marketing manager for Hampton, said the city has not had to deal with rumors about the coronavirus.

The city’s response would depend on what the rumors are, what the source was and how far the rumor is spread.

“Our goal is to keep citizens safe,” Gaskins said.

He said residents can use the city’s website and social media pages for information and for local cases to visit the VDH’s website. As of right now, Hampton has not canceled events but Gaskins said if anything is canceled, the city will use social media, the city website and news release to alert the public and media outlets.

The VDH was not immediately available for comment.

Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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