Normally, the folks at the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce/New River Gorge CVB throw out the welcome mat for any and all visitors to southern West Virginia.
And, Becky Sullivan, the executive director, surely doesn't want her office doors locked to the public. But it's simply a sign of the current times.
Sullivan and her assistant, Kelsey Regan, have been keeping office hours and taking care of business this week at their Oyler Avenue location in Oak Hill, but the office is closed to the public in the wake of concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic and states of emergency issued both in West Virginia and nationally. The women are answering phones, fielding emails and frequently updating information for businesses, residents and others on their website, www.fayettecounty.com, and on Facebook at Fayette County Chamber of Commerce.
Sullivan said she expects Thursday to be their last day in the office, but they will be working remotely.
"It's an extremely uncertain situation," Sullivan said Wednesday. "We're just trying to communicate (with chamber members and the public) the best we can." That includes financial concerns of chamber members. "We'll all get through this together."
Echoing the advice of many, she added, "Don't go out in person if you can avoid it. Be calm, rational and considerate of each other's needs."
On Wednesday, Sullivan was among the tourism professionals who participated in a conference call with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
In the call, Manchin listened to concerns expressed by the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association and small business owners about the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
"The tourism industry and small businesses are essential to West Virginia's economy and right now they are making decisions that are devastating to their own businesses to help make our communities safer during the coronavirus outbreak," the senator said in a press release. "We have to make sure that these businesses are supported by ensuring loss of business insurance claims for pandemic emergencies are covered and that unemployment benefits are changed to a shorter waiting period and an increase in weekly allowance.
"I will fight for these measures and more to be included in the next coronavirus supplemental package because our economy will suffer if we do not support our tourism industry and small businesses across the nation."
"Tourism is crucial to the West Virginia economy," Carol Fulks, executive director of the West Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association said in the release. "We need our government focused on solutions for the small businesses at the heart of our industry and the employees that make our businesses great so we will be able to quickly bounce back when this uncertain time comes to an end.
"We appreciate Senator Manchin taking the time to hear from us today and appreciate his leadership during this time. We will continue to work closely with him to ensure West Virginia workers are not left behind."
The Fayette chamber's website features a special COVID-19 section that focuses on four particular areas: curbside/takeout restaurants, remote working tools, local health updates and attractions.
Restaurants are closed to dine-in, but the chamber lists several local businesses which are still providing curbside pickup and/or delivery service. Those include The Bridge Cafe, Meadow Bridge; Cafe One Ten, Oak Hill; Cathedral Cafe, Fayetteville; El Bandido, Oak Hill; Secret Sandwich Society, Fayetteville; The Station, Fayetteville; Pies and Pints, Fayetteville; and Red Oak Grill, Oak Hill. Check the website or call the restaurants directly to see what services each of those is offering.
The attractions section details the status of three outdoor adventure companies. Both ACE Adventure Resort, in Oak Hill, and Adventures on the Gorge, in Lansing, have placed all lodging and activities on hold until April 15. Rivers Expeditions, in Oak Hill, is currently open for lodging. Rafting will begin April 25.
The chamber website also features links to a variety of small business resources related to COVID-19, and resources for the general public, including veterans and travelers.
Anyone with questions can call the chamber at 304-465-5617 or email email@example.com.
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Oak Hill's Southern Eye Care Associates is among the many local businesses which have made adjustments in the way they operate related to COVID-19.
Drs. B.J. Nibert and Ashley Carroll announced that their office will be temporarily closed for non-emergency appointments from March 19 to April 2.
In the next two weeks, Southern Eye Care will offer patient support as follows:
• For urgent/emergency care, call the office at 304-469-6711 and follow the instructions on the recording.
• For non-urgent questions, leave a message at 304-469-6711 or email the office at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you will receive a response within 1-2 business days.
• Anyone with following emergency signs/symptoms is urged to call the office: flashes of light/new floaters, injury, sudden loss of vision and medication refills.
• Any contacts/glasses that are ready in the next two weeks will be mailed to patients. If you need replacement contact lenses or glasses during this time, call and shipments directly to the patient will be arranged.
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U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza recently issued revised criteria for states or territories seeking an economic injury declaration related to coronavirus (COVID-19).
According to a press release, the relaxed criteria will have two immediate impacts:
• Faster, easier qualification process for states seeking SBA disaster assistance
• Expanded, statewide access to SBA disaster assistance loans for small businesses
"We're very encouraged that banks and financial institutions are responding to the President's efforts to mobilize an unprecedented public-private response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. As a result, most small businesses that need credit during these uncertain times will be able to obtain it. However, our goal is to ensure that credit is available to any and all small businesses that need credit but are unable to access it on reasonable terms through traditional lending channels,” said Carranza. To that end, the SBA is relaxing the criteria through which states or territories may formally request an economic injury declaration, effective immediately. Furthermore, once an economic injury declaration has been made in a state or territory, the new rules allow the affected small businesses within the state or territory to apply for a disaster assistance loan."
For additional information, visit the SBA disaster assistance website at SBA.gov/Disaster.
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