Virginia Festival of the Book preparing coronavirus contingency plans

The organizers of the Virginia Festival of the Book are monitoring the COVID-19 novel coronavirus situation in Virginia carefully.
Updated: Mar. 9, 2020 at 11:56 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Virginia has now joined the handful of states across the nation with more than one confirmed case of COVID-19 novel coronavirus, and the organizers of the Virginia Festival of the Book are monitoring the situation carefully.

The 26th iteration of the festival is set to kickoff in Charlottesville on March 18. Right now, organizers say they still plan to hold the festival.

“There are a number of things that we can control, and we do our best to present a very well organized exciting festival," Virginia Center for the Book Director Jane Kulow said. "There are a number of things that we can’t control.”

The festival is scheduled to run for five days, from March 18 to March 22, featuring presentations and speeches from authors and scholars at multiple locations around the city, including the Paramount Theater, Jefferson Madison Regional Library, and Piedmont Virginia Community College. However, several authors have already cancelled their appearances due to coronavirus concerns.

“We had an author from Washington state who was the very first to say, I cannot come and you do not want me there," Kulow explained. "We had an author the following day, who said that she is not immuno-compromised, but she lives with family members who are, and she can’t take that risk.”

The festival is developing “parallel” plans for various situations alongside the University of Virginia’s Emergency Management Department. Officials from the Thomas Jefferson Health District (TJHD) say that events like the festival should ensure that there are plenty of hygiene supplies on hand. Festivals should also encourage sick people to avoid attending the festival or volunteering there if they are sick. As COVID-19 is spread through close contact with an infected person, the health department also recommends giving individuals roughly 6 feet of space.

“Some may want to sell fewer tickets so that people aren’t quite so packed together," TJHD Health Director Dr. Denise Bonds said. "Or, you may want to think about offering other alternatives for people to view an event.”

Festival organizers say they will release more information on March 11.

For up-to-date information on COVID-19, check out the NBC29 coronavirus section.

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