Roanoke mayor, Carilion medical director explain steps being taken to reduce risk of coronavirus


ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — City leaders in Roanoke say they are prepared for Coronavirus should it show up here. So far, no cases have been reported in Southwest Virginia.

Friday in a news conference to address what steps the city is taking, Mayor Sherman Lea and Carilion’s Medical Director for Infection Control Dr. Anthony Baffoe-Bonnie, spoke about the measures in place for reducing the spread of the virus.

Mayor Lea said they have been working with neighboring governments, the CDC, the Virginia Department of Health and other community partners.

City leaders have canceled all city lead public gatherings for the next 30 days.

On top of canceling events, Roanoke leaders also won’t be issuing any permits for public assemblies.

“We don’t have the ability in the city to shut the city down. You don’t have that opportunity. So our focus has been with activities that we’re directly involved in,” said City Manager Bob Cowell.

Carilion hospital has reduced visitation, so now no one under the age of 18 can visit. And they are also screening the visitors they do have, asking questions about symptoms and fevers.

The mayor and infectious disease specialist from Carilion also want to reiterate something we’ve heard time and time again, the importance of simple steps we can take to reduce the spread.

Things like staying home if you’re sick, covering your cough and they couldn’t say it enough, washing your hands properly.

“Why do we talk about hand washing, and always come back to hand washing or hand hygiene? Because sometimes people don’t know they are touching their hands to their faces and using their hands to touch their faces, so if you’re washing your hands all the time, at least you know you are touching your face with a clean hand,” said Dr. Anthony Baffoe-Bonnie.

Now, officials are urging the public to educate themselves on coronavirus.

“This not the time to panic. This is the time to plan,” Dr. Baffoe-Bonnie said.

Dr. Anthony Baffoe-Bonnie says staff at the hospital is already wearing the proper protective gear recommended by the CDC, even though they haven’t seen a case of coronavirus yet.

“Our efforts now are to try and do everything we can to keep that, that way. Or if we even get to see cases, minimize the expansion or extension.”

City manager Bob Cowell says they are ready to accelerate their emergency plans if the city does see a positive diagnosis.

“Could mean closures of parts of our operations or facilities. And also may ramp up those individuals that might be teleworking or working from some other remote location,” said Cowell.

Something that won’t shut down is emergency services.

“We have taken the necessary steps first, to educate our workforce, making sure they understand the dynamics of what the Coronavirus is all about, and then what steps they need to be safe in their work environments,” said Roanoke Fire and EMS Chief David Hoback.

Chief Hoback says his crews have been trained on things like what protective gear to wear, what symptoms to look out for and when to apply a mask on a patient.

“It took us a while to get where we are. This thing changed overnight a little bit for us. And even though we have no cases here in Southwest Virginia, we are mindful of that and we know that this thing is going to grow,” said Chief Hoback.

Watch the entire news conference below.

The city set up a website for residents to educate themselves on coronavirus at Carilion has its own site at


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