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Appalachia removes barricade from apartment building

Mike Still • Apr 21, 2020 at 9:15 AM

APPALACHIA — Appalachia town officials removed a barricade from a Wise County Redevelopment and Housing Authority building on Monday after a health department-ordered quarantine expired.

Authority Director Monty Salyer said the voluntary quarantine at the Appalachia Towers, ordered April 7 by LENOWISCO Health District Director Dr. Sue Cantrell, expired at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

Town Manager Fred A. Luntsford, Jr. announced later the barricade he ordered placed at the Towers entrance on April 10 was being removed. Luntsford said on April 10 that he ordered the barricade without the authority of a town emergency ordinance but declined to say what town ordinance gave him the authority for the barricade.

The barricade came four days after Cantrell ordered the quarantine.

Salyers said the 14-day quarantine, which affected more than 30 residents, has drawn the attention of staff with 10 other Southwest Virginia housing authorities looking for guidance in case of a COVID-19 outbreak in any of their facilities.

“They’re looking at what we’re doing,” Salyer said. “We have a conference call each week with the other authorities, asking us if we’ll write a guidebook on this.”

Salyer credited Wise County emergency officials as well as the Appalachia Fire Department with helping keep Appalachia Towers residents stocked with food and prescription medicines.

Salyer said Cantrell, fire department personnel and a private contractor also worked together to get and install an ultraviolet light in the Towers’ elevator. Virginia Commonwealth University researchers announced earlier in the month that UV light could be used to decontaminate protective masks of novel coronavirus, and Salyer said the light was installed as a possible way of doing the same for residents using the elevator.

The Appalachia Towers experience is providing lessors not only for the Redevelopment and Housing Authority but for other apartment complexes in Wise County. Some of those complexes may have a central hallway with multiple internal entrances, he said, and the county’s other multi-story housing building in St. Paul — the Stonebriar — poses a similar situation to the Towers if an outbreak occurred there.

Salyer on Friday called the barricade a “deterrent” to keep unauthorized people out of the Towers during the quarantine period.

“The residents have been so good,” Salyer said. “We want to make sure everyone stays safe.”

The WCRHA oversees 11 housing sites in Wise County, Salyer said. The Appalachia and St. Paul sites are designed for elderly, handicapped and disabled residents, he said, and units in each are typically single-occupant apartments.

Salyer said one of the residents at the Towers handles part-time cleaning there.

“She continues to use proper PPE (personal protective equipment) for herself,” Salyer said.

Salyer also credited Appalachia Fire Department crews for helping with quarantine preparations at the Towers, including helping rig ultraviolet lighting in the building’s elevator and helping residents get groceries, medicines and other needs.

Salyer said he has been pleased “for the most part” with how the authority’s approximately 1,350 residents across the county have followed Gov. Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home order and social distancing recommendations.

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